Posts Tagged With: Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi
While most of the Christian population celebrates Easter, Buddhists celebrate the birth of the Goddess of Mercy (Guanyin). Guanyin is an East Asian spiritual figure of mercy associated with compassion.
Amsterdam, New York’s World Peace and Health Organization celebrated Guanyin’s birthday today in the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street. Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi spoke to a gathering of both Buddhist monks, students and followers from all parts of the world where he encouraged the monks to teach the Dharma practice and spread peace and health throughout the world. He also spoke of his successor who would lead the Sangha in Amsterdam as he prepares to retire. There was singing and demonstrations of Tai Chi as the members shared their talents in honor of Guanyin. The celebration was joyous and the members left invigorated from the new mantra they practiced during the celebration.
Buddha’s birthday was celebrated Monday, May 25, 2015 by both the World Peace and Health Organization and Guang Huan Mi Zong. Both organizations are owned and operated by local Chinese Buddhists. This year’s celebration was held in the main parking lot of the Five World Buddha Temple on East Main Street in Amsterdam, New York. Buddhist Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi described the significance of the celebration, which involved the ceremonial bathing of the Buddha, representative of rebirth or a new beginning. The event was attended by locals as well as Buddhists traveling from all parts of New York and China who received an energy blessing from Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi. The day was full of both religious celebration and colorful cultural performances.
The devastating Nepal quake last weekend has left over five thousand dead, thousands more unaccounted for, and hundreds of people stranded 20,000 feet on Mount Everest. Reports state the death toll could rise to over 10,000 people. The earthquake, registering 7.8 on the Richter scale, has obliterated homes, ancient temples, and historical landmarks. Nepal is seeing devastation on levels never before imagined, according to reports.
The Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization held a memorial service this morning, for those killed in the Nepal earthquake, at the Western Supreme Buddha Temple in the Town of Glen, New York. This was not the usual celebration held by the Chinese Buddhists as the thought of the death and destruction in Nepal weighed heavily on the hearts and minds of the Buddhist monks and students. You could see it in their faces as they entered the temple in a funeral procession. As Elise translated the message of Buddhist leader, Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi, I felt the same wave of sadness and concern. A gong sounded the start, middle and end of the service. In memory of those who died in Nepal and to help those who were injured, the monks and students chanted a 100 word mantra to the beat of a wooden percussion instrument carved in the image of a fish. Through prayer and meditation the participants sent to the departed what they believe to be a part of themselves attained through merit or good deeds to help their spirits pass on to be reborn in a better life.
Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi emphasized the cultural importance of Nepal, its rich history and influence on the practice of Buddhism in our world today. He announced that the WPHO will be donating $200,000 HK dollars through its Hong Kong affiliate to help with Nepal recovery efforts. In addition the WPHO will be purchasing $300,000 HK dollars worth of Dharma instruments and Buddhist statues from Nepal to help it recover economically.
The service ended with the same orderly procession that it began with, the WPHO members reserving this day for prayer and meditation.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015, the World Peace and Health Organization celebrated the Goddess of Mercy on Grove Street in Amsterdam, New York. Quan Yin is what the Chinese Buddhists call the Goddess of Mercy. Often depicted as the Goddess with 1000 arms because of her self-less dedication to help others and to remain in the earthly realm worlds until all other living things have completed their own enlightenment and thus become liberated from the pain-filled cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
Buddhist Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi spoke to the gathering of WPHO staff and students yesterday, encouraging them to emulate Quan Yin and to get rid of ego that will block their path to enlightenment. Apples were passed out to the congregation and the spiritual leader marveled at nature’s perfection. The apple tree with it’s many branches was not unlike the many arms of Quan Yin, reaching out and producing a product that relieves the pangs of hunger. He reminded the students that the farmer coats the apple with wax to prevent it from deteriorating and so must they continue to practice the Guang Huan Mi Zong Health Dharma to keep their bodies healthy so they can continue their mission of promoting world health, peace and harmony. It is not enough, Shi emphasized, to practice (meditate) and become energized unless you use that energy to selflessly help others.
Today the local Buddhist groups celebrated the day Buddha was enlightened. Despite the ongoing snow storm, a handful of local residents, including Recorder photographer Trevor Junquera, did participate in the formal Buddhist ceremony held in the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street. They parked in the adjacent parking lot owned by the Buddhists to attend the event. There was no parking available on city streets because of the snowstorm. The Buddhist organization is currently fighting the revocation of their tax exempt status for the parking lot, purely a measure of harassment perpetrated by the City of Amsterdam.
The beautiful celebration featured a performance by the Buddhist clergy that involved both chanting and song in honor of Enlightenment Day. The World Peace and Health Organizations’ spokesperson Jennie Wong told the story of Buddha’s enlightenment and how Buddhism came to China, both in Chinese and English. Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi presented gifts to the members and guests attending. Both received 2015 calendars printed on bound bamboo and English speaking guests received a book describing the Buddhist leader’s mission in the USA. After the ceremony everyone was treated to traditional La Pa porridge, which was very tasty.
After the ceremony, Jennie Wong showed me an email received from Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane in response to a cordial email sent inviting her to attend the Buddha’s Enlightenment Ceremony. The response by Amsterdam’s Mayor made Ms Wong cry. I was both disgusted and ashamed by the nasty, vindictive official response our standing Mayor sent this religious organization. The allegations in the response are totally false. Is this the kind of person we want representing the City of Amsterdam? It is time for new leadership.
We have been down this road before…literally. Shrine Road in Auriesville, NY to be precise. The scenario plays out like this, a financially troubled Catholic Shrine sells off a chunk of its land including a former Jesuit dormitory to the Buddhist World Peace and Health Organization, who refurbish the building making it their headquarters, home and temple. Originating in China, the group renames it the Western Supreme Buddha Temple. At first they share the land harmoniously with the Jesuit Priest Murray who is very cordial and accommodating to the WPHO. In 2012 Father Murray moves on to another assignment in Buffalo and Jesuit Belgarde takes his place. Belgarde is not at all like his predecessor and begins a campaign of terror against the Buddhists, first by blocking all the access roads to their property and then refusing to meet with them to discuss the situation. This ends up in court with a dismissal after Belgarde’s supervisor, Jesuit Provincial David S. Ciancimino grants the WPHO access to their building from both Shrine Road and the gravel road off of Ripley Road built by the Buddhists and aptly named Friendship Road. This blogger documented the history of Belgarde’s campaign of terror. It can be found in the following series of links.
Apparently Belgarde does not follow orders very well. This year his harassment resurfaced like a failed exorcism. He had his maintenance worker block Shrine Road again and also block off part of Friendship Road built by the WPHO! Once again he refuses to communicate with the group and when they begin to protest the action, he has his maintenance worker tear up the road in front of the Buddhist Temple with a backhoe. When the Chinese Buddhist students begin to protest on their own property, Belgarde calls the Montgomery County Sheriffs Department. The WHPO calls the NYS State Police and we have a confrontation resulting in an injury to a 100lb. female WPHO student who was shoved to the ground by a 300lb. male Lieutenant in the Montgomery County Sheriff Department. The student was treated for her injuries in a local hospital. This incident and other unnecessary use of force during this peaceful protest was documented in still images and video. Over a dozen police officers responded when an inexperienced police officer called for backup.
The WPHO hired attorney Sarah Green to represent them and protect their rights. As much as people would like to believe otherwise, there is religious intolerance and racism inherent in this incident. There is no reason why the two groups can not exit harmoniously on this beautiful piece of land overlooking the Mohawk Valley. The Auriesville setting exudes peace and tranquility, it is too bad Jesuit Belgarde can’t see that.
It’s not everyday that you see a dragon slithering down your street but that is exactly what happened today as the World Peace and Health Organization celebrated Buddha’s Birthday. The opening ceremony started at the Goddess of Mercy Temple on Grove Street in Amsterdam, NY with Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi sounding the drum and summoning their ceremonial dragon. The celebration continued at the Five Buddha Temple on East Main Street where a ceremonial bathing of the Buddha took place.
These men are religious leaders, both having reached a certain level of authority among their devoted followers. Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi and Father George Belgarde, S.J. share the same age bracket. They are neighbors living within a few hundred feet of each other but that is where the similarities end. In reality, they are just about as different as one can get. They are from different parts of the world, have greatly differing belief systems, cultures and general demeanor. The Holy Master is jovial, kind and understanding while the Jesuit is angry, hostile and rude.
The Chinese Buddhist and the American Jesuit do not communicate and it is not for lack of trying on the part of the Buddhist. My attempts to communicate with Fr. Belgarde were also rejected. We cannot know his true motive because he refuses to communicate but it seems retaliatory and childish. His intent seems evil in nature.
The frustrated Buddhists are looking for help from whoever may be able to break through this impermeable barrier and foster the hope of a peaceful solution to this ever-increasing tension and hostility they now suffer. It has affected their overall mission and outlook on the local community. They feel the sting of discrimination and prejudice. This writer is a witness to this unholy war deployed by the Jesuit against his neighbor and fellow spiritual leader. Belgarde and his maintenance worker have erected a total of three barricades, blocking all access roads to the Western Supreme Buddha Temple and residence without any explanation or warning.
The third barricade blocked an old unused access road yesterday, July 9, 2013. Yellow crime scene tape was stretched across the road with a no trespassing sign taped on a post with duct tape. This barricade came with a Montgomery County Sheriff Deputy who threatened to arrest the Buddhists for entering the Shrine’s property. The Buddhists in turn called NYS State Trooper Ramieriez who explained that once informed by a police officer, they can in fact be arrested for entering the Shrine property. Trooper Ramierez also discussed the situation with Friendship Road, an access road built by the Buddhists that was also blocked in June by Belgarde who insisted the four-year old road was partly on Shrine property according to a survey he just had done. He placed a pole in the middle of the road forcing the Buddhists to enlarge the access road.
Feeling imprisoned on their own property, the Buddhists sought help from local government officials but nobody was willing to intervene. A civil lawsuit was filed in Montgomery County Supreme Court with Judge Felix Catena proposing a meeting between the groups to settle differences. This was described in my previous post Belgarde Bug Out
The next court date is July 18, 2013 at 10:00am.
The Buddhists hope NYS Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk and NYS Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara will intercede in this matter.