On the first and second days of the Chinese Lunar New Year in the Year of the Dragon, I, as president of the BLIA subchapter, despite a bit of inner conflict and conscience, abandoned the members who were making turnip cakes at the Hsi Lai Temple New Year's Fair in favor of driving alone to the Hsi Fang Temple in San Diego from Los Angeles, which takes two hours one way. I made the resolute decision to hit the road.
I really wanted to go! I had to go! Thanks to the vice-president for arranging the turnip cake affairs properly, and only after confirming with the guiding venerable in my media group that she didn't need me as a volunteer, did I set off!
What did I do at Hsi Fang Temple? Well, I simply went there to experience the festive atmosphere as a visitor. Did I do nothing? Of course not! On the second day of the Lunar New Year, after having breakfast with the venerable and the volunteers, I voluntarily did the dishes! Ha ha!
I visited the four special theme exhibitions at Hsi Fang Temple—Cloud & Water Dragon, Carefree Orchids, Auspicious Mala, and Joyful LEGO. I saw with my own eyes the dragon and LEGO that I had completed news reports on through remote interviews. It was truly marvelous!
LEGO creator Eugene Chiang and his wife Christina Liu took time to show me around, treated me first for dessert and then for dinner. I was moved and wanted to shout, "I have friends in San Diego!"
In the afternoon of the first day, I sat in the Main Shrine and read the work of Venerable Hsin Ting, "Chan and Wisdom." Despite the comings and goings in the hall, I still managed to concentrate and finished reading it with great reward! Before going to bed at night, I flipped through the volumes of "Contemporary Buddhism." Perhaps because I had too much fun during the day, I only read a little and soon fell asleep, but I gained a deeper understanding of the "Four Dharma Realms (Four Realms of Reality)."
My first-time temple sleep-over and my first participation in the second-day Homage to the Thousand Buddhas Dharma service (although I was quite sleepy during the process) were dedicated to Hsi Fang Temple!
Most unexpectedly, I received a "Hsi Fang Scratch Lottery"!
After leaving some money in the donation box, I noticed that the people ahead of me were all taking the red envelopes placed to the side. I knew there were some blessed items inside, usually candies, keychains, or ornaments. Over time, I've accumulated quite a few of them and have recently given some away, so I wasn't particularly interested.
But this time, inexplicably, I took one!
When I arrived home, I unpacked the ornaments, candies, and a small bag of blessed rice from the red envelope. Sensing there might be something else, I retrieved a small card. One side featured a one-stroke calligraphy work by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the founder of FGS, which read "Live with Awakenment to the Path." On the reverse side, it said "Humble Table, Wise Fare." However, to reveal its contents, one had to scratch it. It turned out to be a "Hsi Fang Scratch Lottery" indeed! "How marvelous!" I thought to myself.
Scratch, scratch, scratch... When I uncovered the inscription "Using time well is treasuring life; seizing time is mastering life," I was on the brink of exclaiming aloud. It perfectly aligned with what I had been contemplating all along, even during the return journey while driving!
I promptly shared my scratch lottery results with the venerable at Hsi Fang Temple. To my surprise, I had won a prize! She responded, "The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas understand you."
I have aspirations related to time and life planning. Although I'm eager to put them into action, I feel a bit apprehensive and hesitant. The "Hsi Fang Scratch lottery" arrived at the perfect moment. I hope it has granted me the courage and confidence I seek!