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Prophet Huynh's Birthday 2011 was celebrated on Sunday December 21st, 2011 at Hoa Hao Buddhist Center in Santa Ana, California, USA
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DONALD MALLEN- The faith of Prophet Huynh Phu So appealed to me mainly because of its simple purity _it concentrates on the essence of our spiritual and physical relationships rather than depending upon
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Stephen Toupin- I am interested in Hoa Hao Buddhism because it allows one to question and think freely; and does not require that a person follows laws and rules on faith. It also teaches responsibility and mental development.

Hoa Hao Buddhism and Vegetarianism: An American Perspective

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 Stephen Toupin

 A special moment in my life occurred about three weeks ago when I accepted Hoa Hao Buddism as my belief. I have been interested in Buddhism since I married my spouse almost three years ago and also a vegetarian for approximately ten months. I am interested in Hoa Hao Buddhism because it allows one to question and think freely; and does not require that a person follows laws and rules on faith. It also teaches responsibility and mental development.

 Why Hoa Hao Buddhism?

 It may seem strange than an American would choose any form of Buddhism over those religions common to Western civilizations. Buddhism, in any form is considered by some Americans as a "new age" belief, or as something taboo. Americans view Eastern religions as being "connected to nature" and centered on events beyond one's control. To an American, this may seem like we cannot control our destiny; and this is not easily accepted by an American.

 Of course, this is not the case. In Hoa Hao Buddhism, one is taught how to live in the present and prepare for the future. The concept that life recycles itself is the central point. This belief is called reincarnation (or re-birth). The main belief is the body dies, not the spirit. The actions in one's previous life, determine the quality of the next. It is thought that good people are reincarnated as better, stronger people and the bad people are reincarnated as undesirable beings.

 Hoa Hao Buddhism teaches that the body we presently possess is a tool that can be used to have a better next life. The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release from this cycle by achieving nirvana, an enlightened state in which greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched. The ethic that leads to nirvana involves cultivating loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equality. It involves acts of charity, as well as observance of the five precepts, which prohibit killing, stealing, harmful language, sexual misbehavior, and the use of intoxicants. By observing these precepts, the three roots of evil — lust, hatred, and delusion—may be overcome.

 Some other beliefs teach blind acceptance as a test of faith and strongly discourage questioning the principles and teachings. This is a mindless submission to a system that resists individual thinking, growth, and development except if it is within the restrictions of their teachings.

 As a technically-oriented individual, I align myself with Hoa Hao belief. I fully understand and accept the fact that we exist for a finite time and that our actions during this time affects our next life. I want to live a good life by helping others, being satisfied with my accomplishment, and always trying to improve bot my strengths and weaknesses. Hoa Hao Buddhism, I believe, is a way to achieve these goals.

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  Ways of Hoa Hao Buddhism

 The key concept behind Hoa Hao Buddhism is to question one's own thoughts and actions based on the laws of morality (right and wrong), logic, and ethics. The Buddhist Teachings can always be questioned – this is encouraged since blind acceptance is a lazy mind. The emphasis is on learning, understanding, and developing, if done to enlighten oneself, questioning the Teachings clarifies personal confusion and mis-guidance. Through free thought, Hoa Hao Buddhism allows individuals to grow and develop at a rate comfortable to them.

 Responsibility is emphasized since our decisions not only affect us, they also affect others around us. Responsibility can be viewed as the ability to accept the outcome of our actions. One needs to consider not only if our decisions and/or actions are proper (good), but also the personal and social effects of these decisions or actions. As "thinking" followers of Hoa Hao Buddhism, the consequences of our decisions need to be considered before the action is committed. This tests if we are willing to accept responsibility. Many people will not accept responsibility because it may be too difficult or not fun. Accepting responsibility is a key component in living a proper life.

 These are the precepts taught by Hoa Hao Buddhism that all Buddhists should follow:
 Kill no living thing (including insects)
 Do not steal
 Do not commit adultery
 Do not lie or defame
 Do not drink intoxicants or take drugs
 Do not desire (greed)
 Do not make uninformed decisions (stupidity)
 Do not abuse one's power

 Once we, as followers of Hoa Hao Buddhism agree to this lifestyle, we can pursue the Eightfold Path from this view point:

 Right Understanding

 Examine compliance with Truth. Analyze every matter to avoid error in judgement and causing confusion in our minds.

 Right Thoughts

 Our actions and thoughts should be towards the Teachings of Buddha and helping others to achieve a better life.

 Right Action

 Our actions should avoid the negative precepts. We need to live our lives in a moral way.

 Right Effort

 Firm belief in the Ways and Teachings of Buddha

 Right Livelihood

 We do not need to spend unreasonable time, money, or effort on the frivolous things in life. Doing so only clouds our minds. The simple life is encouraged.

 Right Speech

 Never talk bad about others. We should talk the truth, but not deliberately harm others. Our speech should be respectful of others.

 Right Mindfulness

 Remember righteous (good) things and do not waste time on our dislikes.

 Right Concentration

 Focus on the important details of living a good life. Through this we can achieve clear thoughts and be free from the drawbacks in life.

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  Vegetarianism and Hoa Hao Buddhism

  Why Vegetarianism?

 Among the many teachings of Hoa Hao Buddhism is respect for all things. Hoa Hao Buddhism teaches us to respect ourselves, our family (especially our parents), our neighbors, our country, and our environment. This is important because each combines to make us who and what we are. Complimentary to the respect of our surroundings, is the respect for living beings (human and non-human). One way a Buddhist shows this is by abstaining from eating meat, poultry, and fish.

 By not eating anything from a living creature, followers of Hoa Hao Buddhism show their respect, appreciation, and thankfulness for all living creatures. However, not all followers are vegetarians. There is nothing principally wrong with this lifestyle. A follower is encouraged to be vegetarian, even if only for two days of the month. Being vegetarian symbolizes a good person; one that is free from the guilt of indirectly causing a creature suffering and death. Non-vegetarians may also be good people; but they are hampered from living a true Hoa Hao Buddhist lifestyle. There is no Teaching that explicitly enforces a vegetarian lifestyle; it is only encouraged.

 Benefits of Vegetarianism

 In addition to a favorable status in the Hoa Hao Buddhist religion, vegetarianism has many other benefits; such as, good health and longer life. Obviously a diet of only vegetables and no meat, poultry, or seafood, has benefits in that there are more essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients the body needs to quickly recover from and defend against sickness and injury. Increased physical energy and mental alertness are also positive effects of a vegetarian diet. Some people may psychologically feel better about themselves and their surroundings.

 The vegetarian diet is low in saturated fats, cholesterol, calories, and complex sugars. This is good for the body's blood circulation and heart function. Because the food structure is simpler, the body can more efficiently use the nutrients without working hard to process the more complex. The low saturated fats and cholesterol content means that blood circulation will not be compromised by clogging arteries and veins. The heart, as a result, does not have to work hard to force the blood throughout the body. As the heart works less, the chance of a heart attack and the stress placed on the body is reduced.

 Vegetarian food is not limited to salads. There are many books that teach how to cook many different vegetarian dishes. I am very impressed with the variety and different methods of cooking vegetables. Americans view vegetarians as thin, weak people that eat lots of carrots and salad; obviously this is not true. American people can not easily cook many different vegetarian foods so their menu is limited; but they are trying.

 I thought being a vegetarian would be very difficult to do. Initially, I became a vegetarian because I suffered from stomach illnesses, headaches, and loss of energy; I also wanted to loose weight. I choose vegetarianism because I knew I needed a lifestyle change, so I promised myself to try it for three months. Ten months later, I am still a vegetarian and look forward to each meal with excitement. It also helps to have a spouse who is an excellent cook. I have decided to stay vegetarian not only because of the health benefits but also because it shows respect for my environment and the living beings that help us in many other ways.

 I hope this document helps you come closer to Hoa Hao Buddhism; live a better and healthier lifestyle; and encourages you to try vegetarianism. Have strength, courage, and certainty in your decisions. Best wishes for a good life.

 July 17, 1998

 
 
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