(Picture: Group Picture in front of the monastery - Steve, the main coordinator, is standing BEHIND the pole - purposely)
year's DRBY's 9th Annual Spring Conference - Wisdom in Action - was held in
Berkeley Buddhist Monastery. With a record number of attendees, people
ranging from all ages and backgrounds, the monastery was soon filled,
especially with the hustle and bustle of the participants and coordinators.
The energy was very lively yet asutere at the same time, and despite the
gloomy forecast, it seemed like the monastery's internal weather forecast
was leaning more towards sunny.
(Pictures: Bhante giving a talk in the Buddha Hall, some of our beloved aunties preparing the food, some of the spectacular food we had for lunch)
The day began with Registration at 8-9am and the Orientation in the Buddha Hall from 8:30-9am. The first workshop was either Venerable Bhante Suhita, "Working with Inmates During their Post-Release Process Back Into the Communiy," or Martin Verhoeven, "Engaged Buddhist Monasticism," - I went to the first one. Bhante was very interesting because he had ran away from home at 15 or 16 and became a Trappis monk, later being asked to investigate Eastern religions and to study them, ultimately becoming a "Buddholic." He aided a great deal in the mass immigration of refugees in the late 70s, and plays a big role in religious and social projects all over the United States, namely California. Following was meal offering and goodness me, there was SOOOO MUCH FOOD!!! GOOD FOOD, I might add :) There were a lot of volunteer cooks and so many helpers that soon we were confronted with more food than we had thought we would have. Miraculously though, we managed to finish almost all of it! The biggest hit, I have to say, were the Vietnamese sandwiches :)
Michael Tsai giving his lecture, Henry, Jason and Kenny leading a
recitation of Guan Yin Bodhisattva's name, and a wider view of the room
taken in Ron Epstein's talk)
After lunch was the second workshop, which was either Karma Lekshe Tsomo and "Socially Engaged Buddhist Women," or Michael Tsai, "Time is Precious: Leave a Mark" - I went to Michael Tsai's lecture and he is from Tzu Chi and had become affiliated because he had been diagnosed with an extremely rare case of life-threatening cancer. This cancer however, changed his life because it totally turned his personality and outlook in life from only helping himself to helping others. He had been given six months to live but has outlived that prediction by about 7 years now. After a short break was the third workshop, consisting of either DM Yun's "Buddhist Prison Ministry" or Ron Epstein's "Lay Buddhists Responsibility to Local Community." I went to the second one and what was so interesting about his story was that he had been so close to the Venerable Master and had been able to follow the growth of DRBA from its earliest roots.
(Pictures: Dinner in the dining hall, Jason, Amanda and Lai Theng at the registration table, Brian Conroy performing his Vegan Monologues)
Tea Time came and Meditation Instructions started at 4:30-5:15pm, followed by Meditation from 5:15-6:15. Dinner was provided by Tzu Chi, a truly spectacular meal, and at 7:45pm everyone congregated in the Buddha Hall for Brian Conroy's "Vegan Dialogues," a truly hilarious and wonderful telling of vignettes of Brian's life as a vegetarian.
Following was DM Heng Sure on his guitar, singing to us one of his new songs and the Dedication of Merit. Then, HOME.
DRBY Conference (2)
Sunday, March 25, 2007
I arrived at BBM at 9am and at about 9:15am the first event, the Panel Discussion, began. Included in the panel was Reverend Kusala, Nepun Mehta, Venerable Suhita Dharma, DM Heng Sure, Valerie Tseng and DM Heng Yin. They eached talked about their personal experiences about giving and being socially engaged, particularly in Buddhism or acts based on Buddhist principles. It was really interesting to see the various ways people can help out in the community and in themselves, all working toward a greater good.
(Pictures: LUNCH TIME!)
After meal offering was lunch, this time consisting of leftovers from last night's dinner and the creations of various good-hearted and devoted DRBY members.
At 12:30 - 2pm the fourth workshop ensued, including DM Heng Sure and "Vegetarian and Buddhism" and DM Yin and DM Jin Jr's "Education and Social Change." I went to the second one and it was nice for me because I'm from GS, and because it's nice to hear feedback and stories and experiences from the students and alumni and to just reconnect with our roots. A lot of people in the audience had never heard of our school and were amazed (most people are) that it was normal to have a class of 5 students and see peacocks everyday. Workshop 5 consisted of a lecture by Reverend Kusala (who rides a motorcycle!) on "The Reluctant Bodhisattva" and by Doug Powers on "Socially Responsible Buddhist Laypeople." I went to Reverend Kusala's talk and he talked about how he became socially engaged and his projects and experiences, such as working in high-risk jails and detentions centers and being a chaplain in a police force.
(Pictures: "Dedication of Thank Yous," DRBY Conference coordinators/planners)
After the meditation sessions, everyone gathered into the Buddha Hall for the Dedication of Merit. The speakers and the conference coordinators all gathered in front and rounds of thank yous were expressed by Steve on behalf of DRBY to everyone, and the conference ended on a high note with the Dedication of Merit. Afterwards everyone pitched in to put the monastery back into shape and WHOA, everyone was surprised at how quickly and efficiently we were all able to clean up, proving how wonderful teamwork really is.
Pictures: The Gang (Catherine, Christina, Me, Amanda, Amanda and Mike), and just the gals (Catherine, Christina, Me, Amanda, Co Hong)
The conference was a really cool experience. I got to meet and to re-meet a lot of very interesting people, and yes, also learn about the toils of grad school, if I ever planned on continuing down that route, not to mention about how dental school is like (hahaha, thanks for the root canal lesson, Jason XD) and what teaching in a public school is like (courtesy of Lai Theng). Plus, it was really nice to see Dede, Gopi, Michelle and Anh, KV and R2, the alumni and old DRBY members (and meet new ones) and of course, my lovely GSA crew :)