Friday, August 5 2022

This weekend, a local Buddhist temple happily rang in the Chinese New Year which began on Saturday.

For good luck, the Dao Tam New Braunfels Buddhist Temple held prayer times and traditional ceremonies during this light-hearted two-day event. Chinese New Year is from January 25 to February 11, 2021.

On Friday, the temple celebrated with a vibrant dragon dance, lighting prayer candles for Buddha and handing out “lucky” money. 2020 is the Year of the Rat, and in Chinese culture it symbolizes hard work and thrift.

“They are very smart,” said Thailai Nguyên, a volunteer event organizer for the temple. “It’s the year of the rat and there are different animals and last year it was the pig.”

Friday’s events left people in high spirits, attracting both temple regulars and newcomers. The dragon dance was lively as someone dressed in the vibrant and elaborate traditional dragon costume imitated the mythical creature.






Temple members play music during the lion dance ceremony at the Dao Tam Buddhist Temple on Friday, January 24, 2020. MIKALA COMPTON | Herald Zeitung




After the dance, the temple people sat in rows on square pillows. In the middle of the room was a long wooden table with different fruits and water bottles on the end in front of a large Buddha sculpture.

Temple nuns in long gray robes handed out small tea candles to each person.

A nun read aloud a parable about a poor woman who asked strangers for two coins. She received two coins and bought a candle to offer to the Buddha.

Her candle burned brighter than other people’s candles because she had given all she had to the Buddha.

After the nun finished the parable, he asked everyone to hold the candle to their foreheads and pray, which they did silently in the dim light. People then placed the candles in the center of the table, and the lights came back on for a more energetic event.

The master of the temple, dressed in a yellow robe, handed out lucky red envelopes and a small tangerine to each person in line.

Inside the bright red envelopes stamped with gold lettering were $2 bills, announcing good luck and prosperity for the new year.

“Lucky money is put inside and sometimes inside of it they have something like $5,” Nguyên said. “It’s fortune for you, like ‘Here’s something for fortune here for you. It’s something very traditional but very cool, it’s nice.







Chinese New Year

Moon Nguyen and William Rogers hold prayer candles during the Chinese New Year celebration at the Dao Tam Buddhist Temple on Friday, January 24, 2020. MIKALA COMPTON | Herald Zeitung




The tangerine represents the absorbing luck that the Buddha bestows on people in return for honoring the Buddha.

After everyone crossed the line, energetic music played, including the song “Happy” by Pharell Williams.

People were talking to each other, smiling and taking a group photo with the temple master and the nuns.

Saturday was a quieter day at the temple, with about an hour of prayer and the traditional chanting of the Medicine Buddha sutra.

The sutras are canonical scriptures and Buddhists recite the Medicine Buddha sutras to pray for good health and well-being. They also distributed the lucky red envelopes and the tangerine to those who had missed them the day before.

Some newcomers attended the ceremony on Saturday, and nun Tu Hien said the temple provided a good learning environment.

“They can pray, learn more about the Buddha,” Hien said. “We have many lessons to learn about the Buddha. Our religion is good because you learn to care about family, parents. You learn to be a good person.

Hien said that those who do good are rewarded later.

“If you have less money, you can give less, but give anyway,” Hien said. “When you give something, you get something back, not now but later.”

The Year of the Rat happens every 12 years and Chinese culture says to avoid speaking ill of rats or disturbing them in your home if it is their year.

Nguyên says she has a small greenhouse and takes care of various tropical plants. She once said that she suspected rats had invaded the greenhouse.

“One day I went there and the water smelled so bad,” Nguyên said. “I said ‘My God, they come here and pee here.’

She takes care of plants with fruits like lemons and oranges, and she said rats give her trouble.

“They come and take all my leaves off the plants and the branch and all the leaves on the ground,” Nguyên said. “All the fruits, lemons, kumquats and oranges were on the ground, they bite but they don’t eat and they pick all the leaves.”

Despite the mischief, Nguyên said she didn’t bother the rats because it was their year.

“I said ‘Ok, I have to shut up and I won’t say anything,'” Nguyên said.

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