Empowering Youth with Humanistic Buddhism: Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto Concludes First English Youth Temple Retreat

July 7, 2024

On July 7, the Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto has successfully concluded its inaugural English Youth Temple Retreat, a transformative three-day, two-night event that welcomed 32 young participants. The retreat culminated in a closing ceremony and the "Sound of Chan and Joy of Dharma" event held in the temple's outdoor Chan garden, drawing nearly 120 attendees, including members of the Buddha’s Light Choir and devotees, eager to celebrate the youths' growth and achievements.

Venerable Chueh Fan, the Abbess of Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto, addressed the youth at the closing ceremony, emphasizing that the end of the retreat marked a new beginning. She encouraged the participants to share the joy of Dharma they experienced and apply the lessons learned in their daily lives, becoming seeds for spreading Dharma. The Abbess also invited the youth to return to the temple often, making it their spiritual home.

Led by teachers and students from Fo Guang Shan Tsung Lin University, including Venerable Zhi Nian, English Buddhist Studies teacher Ms. Xiaowen Wu, and five international students, the retreat offered a rich educational experience. Members of the Young Adult Division (YAD) of Buddha’s Light InternationalAssociation (BLIA) and interns from Fo Guang University also assisted with various tasks.

Adhering to the principles of Fo Guang Shan’s founder, Venerable Master Hsing Yun, which emphasize engaging youth with Buddhism, the retreat’s curriculum, themed "Knowing The Way to Your Heart," included lessons on Buddhist etiquette, an introduction to Buddhism, Humanistic Buddhism music, meditation, cooking, and tea meditation. The goal was to inspire the youth to integrate the spirit of the "Three Acts of Goodness" and "Four Givings"into their lives.

Half of the participants were visiting a monastery for the first time. During these three days, they explored Buddhist teachings and shared their personal transformations and joys at the closing ceremony. Some spoke of their initial anxieties transforming into a sense of openness; others expressed gratitude and joy through collective achievements. This camp left a deep impression on them with its human-centered educational approach of Humanistic Buddhism and the valuable understanding, confidence, and strength they gained.

On the first day, Venerables Ming Ru and Ming Zhou conducted ice-breaking games in both Chineseand English, fostering closer connections among participants. On the second day, Venerables Ming Jue and Ming Ru taught "Buddhist Etiquette" in the Main Shrine, deepening participants' understanding of Buddhist rituals. Venerable Neng Kang then led the "Introduction to Buddhism" course, helping everyone understand the life of Shakyamuni Buddha and inspiring them to practice the "Three Acts of Goodness" and "Four Givings". The subsequent "Sounds of the Human World" activity encouragedthe youths to find their inner motivation through chanting Buddhist songs.

In the afternoon, Venerable Ru An led "The Sound of Silence" meditation session, where participants practiced mindful breathing and focused on the present moment. Later, Venerable Zhi Nian guided them in collective teamwork and chores, sharing Chan Master Baizhang’s principle of "a day without work is a day without eating."

The "Food for the Heart" cooking course, taught by Venerable Yong Kang, guided the youths in learning mindful culinary preparation, from washing and preparing vegetables to cooking. Venerable emphasized the importance of building affinity before achieving Buddhahood.

The"Story of Venerable Master Hsing Yun" course, introduced by Venerable Zhi Nian, highlighted the origins of Fo Guang Shan Monastery and Venerable Master Hsing Yun's educational philosophy, "For Buddhism," emphasizing compassion in decision-making. Venerable Master's dedication and compassion deeply moved the youth.

The third day's "Tea Meditation" course allowed participants to experience the purity of tea and the tranquility of Chan. Venerable Zhi Nian used Dharma words from Venerable Master’s “Positive Forecasts for Life” to encourage participants to create their own destiny through the guide of Dharma.

The "Sound of Chan and Joy of Dharma" event featured a recap video of the Youth Temple Retreat. Participants presented songs like "Eightfold Path," "Every Day is a Good Day," and "Namo Amitabha," showcasing their learning and conveying the wisdom and compassion of Buddhism.Teachers and students from Tsung Lin University also presented "The Songof Buddhist Youth" and "Poetry of Hsing Yun," accompanied by Xiaowen's traditional Dunhuang dance, adding a touch of Buddhist art andculture. Finally, Abbess Venerable Chueh Fan, along with all the Venerables, led everyone in singing "Fo Guang People All Over the World," concluding the event filled with Dharma joy.

The first English Youth Temple Retreat hosted by Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto concluded successfully. Thirty-two youthsparticipated in this three-day, two-night camp. In the afternoon, the closingceremony and ‘Sound of Chan and Joy of Dharma’ event held in the outdoor Changarden of the monastery attracted nearly 120 attendees.
Following the opening ceremony, Venerables Ming Ru and Ming Zhou conducted ice-breaking gamesin both Chinese and English, fostering closer connections among participants.
‘Food for the Heart,' taught by Venerable Yong Kang, guided the youths in learning the way of mindful culinary preparation, from washing and preparing vegetablesto cooking, each step filled with Bodhi mind.
Abbess Venerable Chueh Fan presenting awards to the outstanding youths.
In the 'Story of Venerable Master Hsing Yun' course, Venerable Zhi Nian introduced the founding origins of Fo Guang Shan and the master’s educational philosophy 'For Buddhism' through video.
During group discussions, teachers and students practiced interpersonal connections and delved deep into Buddhist teachings together.
The retreat was led by teachers and students from Tsung Lin University,including Venerable Zhi Nian and Ms. Xiaowen Wu from the English Buddhist Studies department, along with five students from various parts of the world handling administrative, counseling, and teaching tasks. The YAD of Toronto and Fo Guang University interns assisted with various activities.
Participants presenting and performingthe three classic songs 'Eightfold Path,' 'Every Day is a Good Day,' and 'NamoAmitabha' in groups, showcasing their learning achievements in a short periodand conveying the wisdom and compassion of Buddhism.
The meditation experience 'The Sound of Silence' had participants observetheir breath, relax body and mind, and listen to the undifferentiated world,focusing on the present moment.
Teacher Xiaowen Wu's traditional Dunhuang dance added elegance to the event, highlighting Buddhist art and culture.
In the 'Tea Meditation' course, youths experienced thepurity of tea and the tranquility of Chan.