For the majority of the Vietnamese Buddhist who live overseas today the challenge they have to overcome is no longer the struggle to maintain a healthy income for the family nor the assimilation of the new culture that surrounds them, but rather it is the ability to preserve the precious culture and teachings that they have brought with them to the new country.
Among the many precious qualities of the Vietnamese culture, faith and the understanding of Buddhism is in a possible state of decline among the younger generations. Many parents have great difficulties trying to teach their children the Buddhist practices of prayer that they have learned and are practicing in their house daily or the Buddhist rituals that are practiced in the temples which they would like their children to come and join. This is not to mention the task of teaching the more subtle Buddhist teachings such as the Buddhist philosophy on cause and effect, conditional arising of phenomena, or the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Teaching the younger Generations the subtle Buddhist philosophy becomes an even more challenging task.
As a result of the younger generation not being able to learn and understand the religion that their family follows, the Vietnamese youth gradually becomes separated from that religion. The next step is only a matter of time. That is when the children enters college or university they are met with many religions operating in the native language that they are accustomed to. Consequently, the children will find it easier to join and learn simply because they grow up in an environment in which these surrounding religions make up the majority of the religions in the US.
With the stark reality, many parents worry that in the future their children may no longer know about Buddhism because the parents are not able to transfer the faith and understanding to their children which they have kept throughout their life.
One of the many reasons leading to the stark reality mentioned above is the very reason of language. On one hand, there are many Vietnamese of the older Generations who can speak limited English with each other during a conversation or in the work environment and much less if any when it comes to talking about practices and Buddhist teachings. On the other hand, the younger Generations can only communicate fluently in English and are very hesitant in holding a conversation or listening to complex meanings in Vietnamese. The majority of the younger Vietnamese generation can only speak limited Vietnamese and therefore it is very hard to teach them harder, deeper, and more complex Buddhist philosophy in the Vietnamese language.
A solution for this dead-end in communication springs up on Saturday May 20th 2017 at Như Lai Thiền Tự, San Diego, California. Here a special first-time retreat entitled “Returning Home” dedicated for the younger Generations is held for two days in English.
In preparation for this special retreat venerable Giác Minh Luật and the other venerables in the organizing committee have labored day and night to plan for this event. The superintendent overseeing this Retreat is venerable Thích Minh Hồi, Head abbot of Như Lai Thiền Tự. The teachers for this Retreat include venerable Thích Thường Tín, Thích Châu Đạt, Thích Tâm Nguyên, Thích Đạt Tín, Thích Giác Nhãn, Thích Phước Đạo, and Thích Thiện Niệm. Also many leaders from the Buddhist Youth Organization will help with organizing and running the retreat.
With a new mode of operation suitable for the younger generations the retreat has brought many moments of happiness, tranquility, and friendship bonding for the youths. Through the retreat the younger Generations have had a chance to learn the basics of Buddhism and more importantly have had a lot of fun. They have expressed their willingness and desire to come and join future retreats.
It is our hope that the young Abbots and monastic friends who have the same aspirations to help preserve the Buddhist teaching strengthen the success of the “Returning Home” retreat by teaching the younger Generations the teachings of the Buddha in their native English language so that they can be nurtured in the light of the Buddha who have transmitted his teaching to us over 2500 years ago.
Below are pictures taken directly from the “Returning Home” retreat:
(translated from Vietnamese to English by Thích Đạt Tín)
Anh Tâm Đăng, Trưởng ban Hướng dẫn GĐPT Hải ngoại đang chia sẻ kinh nghiệm giáo dục tuổi trẻ Việt Nam tại Hải ngoại với Thầy Đạt Tín, Thầy Châu Đạt và cư sĩ Quảng Hải trước giờ khai mạc khoá tu.
và tự rửa bát sau khi ăn...