Daily life
Tsz Shan Monastery Hosts First Youth Camp
By Staff Reporter, Buddhistdoor International, July 29, 2014
29/07/2014 21:02 (GMT+7)
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Tsz Shan Monastery may not be open to the public until the end of 2014, but 23–25 July saw a holiday retreat for high school students—the camp motto being “to understand the rules of life and enjoy living in the moment.” The activities were tailored for about 100 students from a selection of Buddhist schools under the Hong Kong Buddhist Association. “They were devised specifically for making Buddhist practice fun and enjoyable while retaining its original objectives and teachings,” said Walter Ngai, secretary general of Tsz Shan Monastery.


The world's tallest bronze Guan Yin statue at Tsz Shan Monastery. From Buddhistdoor International
Some of the more unusual activities included “chocolate meditation,” which was all about mindfully savoring the taste of good, organically made chocolate, and lantern-making. Upon completion, the Korean-style lanterns were proudly shown to the temple’s resident monks in the late evening outside the grand main courtyard. Mr. Ngai told Buddhistdoor that the monastic and lay organizers of the retreat want young people to engage with Buddhism in a way they feel comfortable and natural with. “Buddhism is cool!” he said. “There’s no other way to say it. And we want young people to understand that.”
Venerable Tsang Chit, Tsz Shan’s chief abbot, said that the project is part of a long-term approach to planting good seeds that will generate interest in people (in this case, students) to come back to the temple and learn more about Buddhist values. “Don’t cook too many dishes for dinner lest you can’t finish them,” he laughed. “We need a steady and stable mentality to approaching charitable initiatives. Yes, we must be in touch with what’s going on around us, but we don’t need to involuntarily chase after what others are doing.”
The organizers of Tsz Shan’s youth retreat emphasized to this website that it was of paramount priority to get students acquainted with Buddhism’s potential to benefit society and the individual. To this end, Tsz Shan offers some of the largest and most spacious areas in Hong Kong for walking, sitting, and meditating. Most of the temple grounds’ 50,000 square meters are outdoors. Ven. Tsang Chit declared that an environment “needs to be comfortable and to make people feel comfortable.” He also said: “Only when they are physically and emotionally at ease are they in a state of mind to be able to admire the surroundings and learn more about what it all means.”


The Buddhas in the main hall of Tsz Shan Monastery. From Buddhistdoor International
Buddhist groups in Hong Kong are growing increasingly mindful of the urgent need to recruit fresh demographics. This means attracting more young devotees into their ranks, which are still filled mostly by the elderly and middle-aged. Yet Ven. Tsang Chit also pointed out that young people could benefit from Buddhism as much as the Dharma and sangha need them: “In this youth retreat we’ve made it mostly about Dharma, but a huge component is no doubt geared towards teaching the youth about getting to know society. The Buddha’s Dharma is a priceless aid for young people to understand the suffering and complexities of society.”
The organizers hope to be able to span the roster of schools to encompass non-Buddhist schools. “We want to carry this initiative forward into the years ahead,” said Mr. Ngai. “If even a dozen out of a hundred students became spiritual seekers after this retreat, we’d consider the camp a major success.”
“Tsz Shan Monastery, like other temples, must be about open service to the community. Impermanence, or wu chang, is the key central realization of Buddhism,” said Ven. Tsang Chit. “Where better to learn about this truth than in a good temple environment?”

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