The Mid-Autumn Festival has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in China and is a time-honored tradition that brings families together in reunion to show gratitude. While this year, family reunions were hindered by the global COVID-19 pandemic, Hsi Lai Temple invited their faithful Fo Guang Members to “come back” to their spiritual home to receive the Buddha’s blessings. On Saturday, September 26, in short one-hour time increments throughout the day, small groups of BLIA members and volunteers gathered responsibly at the temple courtyard donning face masks and maintaining strict social distancing guidelines.
The temple compassionately set strict regulations to keep its members safe, such as taking everyone’s temperatures at the gate before entering and requiring people to wash their hands while entering and leaving the temple. Precautions were even taken at the parking lot, where cones separated parking spaces in order to ensure physical distancing from the moment people stepped onto temple grounds. Needless to say, the thoughtful monastics took every step they could to ensure everyone’s safety, while allowing the faithful an opportunity to gain merits and blessings.
The ceremony was short but worthwhile and meaningful, as the Fo Guang members joined to chant the Dharani of the Medicine Buddha and recite a prayer written by Venerable Master Hsing Yun for protection against disasters. In addition, Venerable Abbott Hui Dong gave a Dharma talk on how we could work together in faith to overcome adverse times. The Abbott’s words of hope instilled inspiration and positivity in everyone’s hearts. Although the ending of the ceremony was bittersweet, homesick members wore smiles on their faces as they left the temple, being offered a gift on their way out. The gracious gift prepared by the temple reflected loving kindness, as they generously offered a face mask, disinfectant hand wipes, and a mooncake made with love.
The celebration did not end at the “Coming Back Home Ceremony”, either, as the temple had prepared a virtual evening event online for members to convene for greetings, well-wishes, and performances in commemoration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Over 300 people joined the online festivities live on YouTube on Thursday, October 1 where the Buddhist spiritual family were united to receive and extend blessings. Head Abbott of Fo Guang Shan Venerable Hsin Bao, Venerable Abbott Hui Dong, monastics, and lay members of the Buddha’s Light International Association all extended their blessings in short video clips. Even government and community leaders offered their kind greetings and well-wishes to the Hsi Lai family. To make the online gathering feel even more celebratory, the audience was able to enjoy songs and music performed by kids and the Hsi Lai choir. Indeed, it was an hour of spreading joy and positive vibes.
The Mid-Autumn Festival this year has been different than the typical annual gathering at Hsi Lai Temple but proved to be a very special one. In this day in age, we are so fortunate to have technology that can unite people despite physical distance, and family reunions are made possible even amid a pandemic. It is a powerful demonstration of the faith and resilience in our Buddhist community. We should be mindful that regardless of whether we can meet in the same physical location, we are always united together under the same bright moon. As Senior Venerable Yi Kung mentioned during the online festival, there is a metaphor in Buddhism called “pointing to the moon”; The pointing finger represents the skillful means and practices in our daily life, while the moon represents our true nature— bright, gentle, and compassionate. It is our hope that every person can point their finger mindfully to the moon, and on this Mid-Autumn Festival, we wish you peace and joy on your path to Buddhahood.