A Memorable Vacation at Than Hsiang Pajam and Klang

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(06-24 December 2017)
By: Ven. San Pisith

When the first semester came to an end, all IBC students started making several plans to welcome their upcoming semester break. They planned different things to enjoy their vacation; some students were going to update their resumes in order to apply for a new job or a scholarship, some were looking for voluntary work in order to get more experience, some students were thinking of traveling hoping to discover something new and exotic, and the rest were planning to go back to their countries to spend the vacation with their families.
With the educational program of IBC, guided by Ven. Zhen Yuan, my friends and I decided to join the community service at Than Hsiang Buddhist Welfare Association in Pajam, Malaysia. It was the third trip for Ven. Chinh; the second for Ven. Phyrun and me, and the first for Ven. Silar, Ven. Singkham, Ven. Dody and Ven. Anh.

Although it was my second time in Malaysia, still it was very exciting for me. I had many chances to experience new things every day. During my stay at Than Hsiang in Pajam and Klang, I joined different kinds of activities. Kindly allow me to invite you to read some of my social activities with Than Hsiang in Pajam and Klang in the following pages.

Art Class
Even though I am not a professional artist, drawing is one of my favorite hobbies. I love drawing when I have some free time. The reason I love drawing is because drawing focuses my mind, allowing me to concentrate. Normally, I like drawing a portrait of the Buddha and the landscape of the countryside because these two things make me feel calm and serene even when I just think about them.

After arriving in Pajam for a few days, I was very happy to know that sister Pau Chu was going to ask Valerie Tan to organize a drawing class for all of us. Valerie is a very kind and talented young girl. She has been living in an artistic environment since she was very young. Therefore, she can draw very well. Everyone seemed to be very interested in learning how to draw a basic foundation of a mandala and a portrait of a human face. The technique of her art instruction was marvelous and simple enough for everyone to follow.  Within just a couple of hours following her instruction, everybody could draw a beautiful mandala and a portrait of a human face very well. Anyway, some of our venerable friends came up with a new idea to draw a portrait an alien face!  When we know the real technique of drawing, it is not so difficult for us to create a beautiful thing on the sheet of paper. Through art, we can express our beautiful ideas on a piece of a blank paper and make everyone understand what we really think in our minds. These art lessons gave us a lot of peaceful and enjoyable moments to discuss and learn from one another in a suitable behavior of mutual respect.

Making Towel Puppy
Besides learning how to draw the foundation of a mandala and a portrait of human face, we also learnt how to use a piece of towel to make a puppy. This was taught by Sister Chew Lee Lan, Sister Maggie and Sister Law Kim Cheng. Frankly speaking, most of us had no idea about this craft.  We were very eager to learn a new thing that we had never done before. We were wondering how one could make a puppy out of just a piece of towel! However, having seen the process of making it from our instructors, it seemed not as difficult as we had thought. We just followed the instructions carefully, and then started making it step by step. Finally, we could make our own towel puppies using a piece of towel! Everyone had a lot of fun making their own towel puppies and showed off their talents to each other. All the puppies that we made looked so cute!  

Student Camps
Student Camps was one of the main purposes for me to be in Malaysia again. I was very happy to be able to interact, learn and share what I have studied in a Buddhist environment with everyone. Before the event, we had a lively discussion with sister Pau Chu about several issues that students face nowadays. According to her, students today seem to know very little about respect. Therefore, our major theme for the student camps was ‘Respect.’ We all agreed that we were going to talk about respect in the context of Buddhist environment and secular life.
After the meeting and doing some research, we found out that respect is so important in our everyday life. Respect is an open door for us to learn new things from one another. Without respect, nobody wants to learn or share any knowledge with each other, especially in a multi-cultural country like Malaysia or even in a Buddhist environment with many traditions.  

While I was researching this theme, I was incredibly impressed to learn that the Buddha, on several occasions, had mentioned the importance of respect for both the monastic members of the Sangha and the lay community.  The Buddha said, “Respect the one who should be respected, i.e. parents, teachers, elders, spouses, friends, etc. It is considered as one of the highest blessings in our life.” More importantly, based on the Vinaya rules in Buddhism, monks and nuns are forbidden to preach the Dharma to someone who does not show any respect towards them. The Buddha laid down this rule for the monastic sangha not because he wanted to get a great honor from the audience, but he just wanted to get attention from them. An audience without respect or attention will not be able to understand properly and it will be useless for the monastic Sangha to share the teachings of the Buddha with them.

Coming from different places to stay together as one group is not an easy thing to deal with; however, it does not mean that it is an impossible thing to do if we have respect for each other.  Relating to this point, student camp, in both Pajam and Klang, provides a great example. Even though they came from different families, they can work together as one family due to respect.
I had a lot of chances to engage with lay students through this student camp. All of us coming from IBC were engaged in Dharma teachings/lessons except venerable Dody Mario (Dao Yuan) who was helping sister Pau Chu fulfilling her duties in the kitchen. Occasionally, some students approached me and asked several questions concerning Buddhism. Sometimes, they wanted me to share my personal life as a Buddhist monk with them as well. It was incredibly amazing for me to gradually realize that student camp has created a friendly environment for all of us to learn and to share what we believe or what we love in our life with one another regardless of our different nationalities and religious backgrounds.   

Apart from the social activities, sister Pau Chu also took us to visit many beautiful places: Broga Hill, I-city, Waterfall, Twin Tower, Batu Cave, Thai and Burmese temples in and around Penang. Among these beautiful places, Broga Hill was the one that I loved the most. I felt very peaceful as I reached the top of the hill. At that spot, I took a deep breath in the soft light of the early morning’s daybreak; it was an unforgettable moment in my life!  

Finally, I cannot express my gratitude enough to Venerable Wei Wu, Venerable Zhen Yuan, Venerable Zhen Ji, Sister Pau Chu and all the actively involved staff of IBC for making this educational trip available to me and other students. It was the greatest vacation I have ever had in my student life.