Author: Shirley Hu, Editor: Qiao Ri Li
August 22nd, 2023 marks the final day of the first semester of the Fo Guang Shan (FGS) Temple of Toronto Senior Class. The course was 8 weeks long, with a total of 26 participants aged 65 and above. This course focused on Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s literary book titled “Hundred Paths to Happiness” and featured eight core themes: Opening the Vision of the Heart; Navigating Life in Old Age; Cultivating A Life Enriched by Literature Unveiling Ancestral Wisdom, Embracing the Joys of Living, and Fostering Universal Happiness.
Led by Venerable Chueh Fan, the Abbess of FGS Temple of Toronto, along with other seven Venerables, a profound connection was forged with students through weekly Buddhist teachings. Guided with patience and compassion, the senior attendees collectively learned and explored the secrets of a happy life in old age. It is noteworthy that advancing age does not inherently translate to diminished happiness.
The FGS Toronto Senior Class curriculum not only provided the students with the opportunity to learn about the Dharma and receive guidance from the Venerable on the “Hundred Paths to Happiness”, but also established a platform for open communication and the sharing of insights. Within these interactive sessions, the students learned to cultivate open-mindedness, compassion, and mindfulness in their daily interactions, fostering inner tranquillity and peace through the relinquishment of attachments.
In addition to the core teachings, the weekly themes offered activities including Ikebana floral art, spiritual care, senior exercises and health, smartphone application, ice-skin mooncake crafting, Sutra transcription, a special talk on senior pensions and housing subsidies, and learning inspiring songs from Sounds of the Human world that written by Venerable Master Hsing Yun.
These activities collectively empowered the senior learners to comprehend the significance of maintaining physical and mental well-being, integrating spiritual practice into their daily lives, and remaining informed on pertinent social welfare matters.
During the concluding session, 26 senior participants from different linguistic backgrounds (Mandarin, Cantonese, and English), united and performed two heartfelt songs: “Foguang Four-Line Verse” and “We are all Fo Guang People”. Additionally, five student representatives expressed unwavering faith in “Humanistic Buddhism”, and deep gratitude for this enriching experience. With the presence of the Dharma and the guidance of all Venerables, regardless of how age advances, happiness can always accompany the journey of life.
91-year-old Grandma Lucy Huang stated, “I eagerly anticipate every Tuesday’s Senior Class. Despite my old age, being part of the class imbues me with a youthful spirit.” Fan Zuolin also shared her abundant harvest and benefits from the eight-week journey, expressing heartfelt gratitude for Buddhist teachings, guidance, and volunteer dedication. Xie Jianxin expressed that learning Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s “The Song of Ten Practices” made him understand that practice has to be integrated into daily life. Zhang Chengyi conveyed profound gratitude, finding solace in the eight-week learning and connecting with fellow participants, which helped him overcome the pain of loss and rediscover hope in life.
Venerable Chueh Fan concluded the journey with compassionate teaching, lauding the senior participants as outstanding contributors across various societal domains. Every student in the class exudes vitality and spreads joy. The Abbess emphasized the importance of sustaining a youthful outlook, consistently showcasing individual strengths, and embracing the enrichment offered by new knowledge through mutual learning. She warmly encouraged the students to return to the temple every Tuesday. Being at the temple fosters a positive connection and welcomes more individuals to learn about Buddhism.