Events & Activities
Under the guidance of Venerable Master Chin Kung, the Pure Land Learning College Association, Inc. (PLLC) and the Amitabha Buddhist Association of Queensland (AMTB) co-organize quarter-long (70-day) Buddha Dharma and Chanting Retreat for world peace. The two retreats provide practitioners the complementary aspects of learning Buddhism: understanding and practice. The PLLC, with its programs of lectures, focuses on understanding, while the AMTB, with its program of walking meditation, focuses on practise. In serene environments, practitioners are able to improve both their understanding and practise.
The PLLC is located in the city of Toowoomba in southern Queensland. Toowoomba has rightly earned its title of the "Garden City", for in springtime thousands of people come to enjoy its famous flower show and parade. Traditionally an agricultural country, the Australian government is very aware of the importance of maintaining a balanced ecological system. And in a world that has been traumatized by two world wars, Australia had maintained its peacefulness and is, thus, a pure land in this world.
In the midst of the area's natural beauty, all practitioners speak with one voice in cheering "It has been a long time since we have inhaled such pure fresh air and seen such a clear blue sky."
Since the establishment of the PLLC, Master Chin Kung has organized Buddhist Dharma Retreats in the hope that all practitioners can continue their study uninterrupted by daily concerns. The retreats will provides classes on Standards for Being a Good Student and Child and The Story of Virtue, which are the basis of Confucianism, as well as those on The Study of Sutra Teachings, the fundamental precepts and standards for Buddhist novices, and specialised primary courses on Pure Land Buddhism. There will be Chinese, English, and Vietnamese curriculum.
During the seventy-day retreat, seven one-hour lectures will be given daily, along with four and a half hours of walking meditation.
During retreats, fifty or more practitioners, primarily from Australia, the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia attend the lectures. They come to show their support for the college and the lecturers. Young and old, all work together with mutual respect, sincerity, and harmony, bringing warmth and affection to all in their respective groups. Whether it is the people attending the lectures, or friends and neighbours at the Saturday Night Dinner, everyone feels at home.
From different social backgrounds and from various parts of the world, people who have never met gather for a 70-day journey of living and practicing. It is an ideal opportunity to implement their understanding of Buddhism in everyday living. As a practitioner once said, "Exercise patience, patience and more patience; tolerance, tolerance and more tolerance."
The PLLC will continue to organize Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter retreats which will serve two purposes. First, they will repay the kindness to people from around the world. Second, they will provide a place where those who wish to propagate Buddhism can practise their skills. Our hope is that the continuous training courses will enable every lecturer to become a successful Dharma propagator, worthy of carrying the Buddhist torch for the benefit of all sentient beings well into the future.
Saturday Get-Together Dinner for our Friends and Neighbours
China was built by a society of people who respected and loved their elders. It is said in the Analects of Confucius: "(Filial piety) Loving and respecting one's parents and (Fraternity) loving and caring for one's brothers and sisters is the foundation for the virtue of loving kindness."There is also an old saying that "Of all the goodness in our nature, loving one's parents and elders is the most important goodness of all". This is especially true of the teachings of the Buddha. In the Infinite Life Sutra, the Buddha said that the Three Fortunes are the basic teaching which all beings of the past, present, and future must follow in order to achieve enlightenment. The first fortune is to "Love one's parents, respect, and truly learn from one's teacher". As we understand it, the education of saints and sages emphasizes love above anything else. Love is the key to developing one's virtue and true knowledge.
Since 1998, Master Chin Kung has been lecturing on the Flower Adornment Sutra. Applying the principles of this sutra in everyday life, Master actively promotes multiculturalism to better serve society. With the help of Mr. Bock Guan Lee, the president of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge, Master visited the leaders of diverse religions, furthered mutual understanding, and increased social activity among these religious groups. On the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year in 1998, Master initiated the Annual Charity Dinner, which was jointly supported by the nine religious groups in Singapore. In 1999, everyone from the retirement centres and orphanages was invited to the dinner. That year, eight thousand people - seniors, children, and people from the nine religions - attended the celebration. With all the volunteers helping one another, they cared for the guests in a wonderfully warm and harmonious atmosphere in anticipation of a brand new year.
Master often says that when we have resources or good fortune, we must share them with all others. He explains that the unrest in our world, the loss of hope and meaning in our lives are all a direct consequence of our ignorance of the teachings of the saints and sages. There are people who truly want to awaken everyone to the teachings of morality and virtue, and to be able to utilize these teachings in daily life rather than just teach them. This is why the Pure Land Learning College Association, Inc. (PLLCA) was begun in Australia. Master has lead the way for the students to begin a series of programs to develop friendship with our neighbors.
Toowoomba, with a population of ninety thousand people, is appropriately known as the "Garden City". Every spring, the city council provides venues for flower exhibitions and the Carnival of Flowers parade. Many tourists come to see the flowers every year. In this pleasant and friendly environment, many of the residents work in the field of education. There are also many retired senior citizens. After observing the way of life in Toowoomba, Master very happily told us, "Here is a land of good fortune in which we can realize the teaching of the Three Fortunes to "Love one's parents and respect one・s teachers・；. Consequently, using the idea of the Singapore dinners, in January 2002, we held our first Get-Together Saturday Dinner at the PLLCA. Every weekend we have a dinner date with all of our neighbours, friends, and retired elders. Master stressed that the goal of this dinner is to simply enjoy a friendly conversation with our new friends and neighbours, and to achieve mutual respect and care for one another. Under no circumstance were we to promote Buddhism.
In Toowoomba, this dinner event is a very special activity. Curious neighbours living close to the PLLC, came to have a look. Thirty Australian friends attended our first dinner with more than half being over seventy years old. After dinner they went home in small groups. Some Australian friends drive their whole families from quite a distance away to join us for dinner each Saturday. During dinner their children talk and play with others. After this weekly gathering began, elders and neighbours have got to know each other better. Quite a few neighbours have only got to know each other through dinner with us. There are also caring individuals who bring friends with special needs to dine with us, so we can enjoy the good food with these friends who need a bit more loving care in a nice atmosphere. We all gather in the dining room, warmly greet each other, and taste the various oriental and western foods. To date, an average of 60 guests attend the weekly dinners. Even during winter, the atmosphere of warmth and harmony has made many Australian friends feel at home.
Master often explains that Mahayana Buddhism is based on "The proper way of love and respect". With this sense of true love, we will broaden our hearts to include all beings. This is the proper way to express sincerity, purity, equality, and compassion. It is also the essence of the multicultural teachings of the Flower Adornment Sutra. In this unfamiliar but friendly land, students learn how to improve communication skills, and to better understand the needs of people from different cultural backgrounds so they might better help each other. At the same time, Australian friends have shown us much kindness. Quite often, neighbours will bring us fruits and vegetables. Other times, they are happy to play a musical instrument or even sing for us on the spot. One young friend has been playing the violin for only half a year, but his effort and concentration earned him a great round of applause.
Besides the weekend dinner, due to popular demand, we also began vegetarian cooking and Chinese knot making classes. On the Chinese New Year and the mid-autumn moon festival day, we invited all of our neighbours and friends to join the celebrations, which were conducted in a large grassy area next to the lecture hall. Vegetarian BBQ was a popular favorite. On the eve of Chinese New Year, we invited performers from Brisbane to perform a lion dance and Chinese kung fu. At the mid autumn moon festival, the passing of lanterns and the lucky draw were very well received. To be here sharing the warmth with this new group of friends does not require much speaking. Already the differences in culture and religious beliefs have melted away.
At the Get-Together Dinners students followed the teaching of Master and did not bring up the subject of Buddhism. However, many Australian friends, who either were previously interested or became interested through our activities, asked us to open classes on Buddhism. Thus, our ：Multicultural Forum； began in July 2002 with the support of Australian friends.
The Establishment of the Multicultural Forum
Following the teaching of Master Chin Kung, the Pure Land Learning College Association, Inc. (PLLC) began holding a Get-together Dinner every Saturday, inviting our nearby neighbours to join us for dinner. After many activities together, quite a few Australian friends had expressed interest in learning more about Buddhism. After careful discussion, the English team, who normally process all English material for the college, decided to hold a discussion group regarding Buddhism every Saturday night. We followed the direction of Master and named this meeting the Multicultural Forum.
Master Chin Kung has often said that Buddhism is, in current terminology, a multicultural social education. When the Buddha promoted this social education, those who listened were a diverse group. However, there was no discrimination of race, nationality, or religion. Young or old, man or woman, rich or poor - everyone was welcome to learn from him. The Buddha・s education helps us better understand ourselves and our living environment. The word ：ourselves； includes the past, present, and future. Our "living environment" includes everything we see and all things that exist in the universe and beyond. All of these are within the bounds of the Buddha・s education. From this brief description, we know that the teaching of the Buddha is something that greatly impacts our daily lives.
Today, materialistic desires and selfishness abound. The propagation of Buddhist education is not an easy undertaking. To accomplish this, we need wisdom to acculturate Buddhism. Two thousand years ago, when high monks from India first came to China to translate the sutras and propagate the teachings, they did so according to the traditions and culture in China. Fully respecting Chinese thinking, Buddhism combined the popular Chinese beliefs at that time and truly helped people avoid evil, alleviate suffering, and eventually become better people. They enabled many to change from ordinary people into saints and sages, and to then elevate themselves to the plane of perfection.
It is extremely difficult to translate Buddhism into English, therefore, the students felt that they needed to learn more. We realize that close to half of the population on earth speaks English as their first language, with Master's encouragement, we understand that the task to help others understand Buddhism is very important. Presently in Toowoomba, few Asian residents could be found. When we learned that our new Australian friends wished to know more about Buddhism, we were pleasantly surprised as over 80% of the residents are Christian. Many of our new friends said that they were glad that Master and the students now lived here, and that they wished to learn more about Buddhism. With such words of encouragement, the students felt that they needed to do their best to teach Buddhism. Thus, starting on 19th July 2002, the Multicultural Forum was held every Friday at 7:30 pm. And now, for the convenience of all friends, it is changed to be held on every Saturday at 5:30pm.
In order to address the participants needs and to keep the forum interesting, Master told us that:
1) We should help the local people get to know the true fate of a society, to better understand personal gain and loss, and introduce ways for everyone to obtain good fortune and avoid misfortune. We should always ask our guests what they wanted to know and what they wished to achieve.
2) We should communicate with friends from various faith traditions and ethical teachings. We were to introduce the principles of Mahayana Buddhism and speak of the reality that there is only one true God in the universe which in Buddhism is called the true nature. All the founders of religions are the manifestation of the true God. All faith traditions are based on the principle of multicultural social education. The goal of all the teachings is love and peace.
The forum starts with a student from the college introducing Buddhism for twenty minutes. For example, one evening the speaker explained the symbolism of Buddhism regarding incense, flowers, and fruit. The statue and name of the Buddha remind us that we should use sincerity, purity, equality, compassion, and proper understanding to interact with others in everything we do. Additionally, some students from the U.S. began collecting books and reports of modern medical and scientific findings regarding reincarnation. Other students have spoken on the subject of physical and mental health, and gratitude. These topics have sparked interest from the audience. Thus, after the twenty-minute introduction, a group discussion has followed, usually about the day's topic.
After a guest raises a question, everyone participates in the group dialog. From these meetings, we have learned that most people・s concerns involve daily lives - their work, families, children・s education, etc. A few people wished to learn about metaphysical concerns. Most of us are able to gradually understand that all the problems we are facing today, be they personal, social, international, or even throughout the universe, all come from the afflictions within us. If we hope to resolve the problems and conflicts in our world, we must first learn to solve the problems and conflicts in our own mind. The Law of Cause and Effect must be truly understood. If we always treat others with generosity and unselfishness, we can lessen our afflictions and resolve our problems.
Some Australian friends have said that after applying what had been discussed in their daily lives, they felt they had made a change for the better. To further their learning, every day at 5:30 am, they come to the Cultivation Hall, don cultivation robes, and join us in chanting Amitabha Buddha's name. Some friends enjoy Master's lectures on the Flower Adornment Sutra and come to the office to listen to the live translation. Also, there are lectures, which due to popular demand, are from 6:10 to 7:00 pm in order to fit our local friends schedules.
In Toowoomba, under the guidance of Master Chin Kung, there are many kind and peace-loving people from different cultural backgrounds who are learning the utmost perfect teaching of the Buddha. We sincerely hope that this is the beginning of a long and prosperous friendship.