The meek and simple scenery of a small village in the western part of
Before dawn, at the sound of cockcrow, or in the evening twilight, a blissful fragrance floated in the air of the whole village, because every house burned incense and lighted lamps for religious worship.
My parents told me I was born during a time of fierce combat, in the midst of the piercing sounds of gunfire. But I remember the sweetness and delight of my childhood in
My mother told me their story: “Before 1945, many families of Hoa Hao believers had bought large boats and used them to move into
The Altar of Heaven rose in front of every house in
Every day, between five and six o'clock in the evening, all male and female believers, wearing the religious clothes called ao trang - a long dark brown tunic - burned incense and performed their rites of worship. After prostrating themselves before the altar of what are called the Three Jewels of Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma (the Law), and Sangha (Community) --- inside their houses, they went outside in front to bow over four directions before the Altar of Heaven. Facing the Altar of Heaven (the main direction), they chanted the prayer of taking refuge, and then facing the other three other directions (toward the back and in beyond each of their two shoulders) they recited the five western vows .
Following the religious tradition of all Hoa Hao believers from a very young age, when I went anywhere or visited someone's house I always stood behind the adults to bow at the altar of Buddha, the altar of the ancestors, and the picture of His Holiness the Master (Prophet Huynh Phu So). Only after that routine did I begin to talk and run out to play games with other children. This eventually became the pattern of my whole life.
Later on, whenever I had the chance to come back to the village with my family to attend the Great Ceremony on May 18 - the day Prophet Huynh Phu So founded Hoa Hao Buddhism in An Giang province - we always acted in the same way. We would go to any house whose owners were absent, worship in front of the altars, and find a place to sleep just as though it were our own house. It was the same with meals: on feast days people voluntarily brought whatever kinds of food they had to offer to others, and we ate as much as we wanted, all together.