2-The Prophet’s Family

23 Tháng Năm 200712:00 SA(Xem: 9999)
2-The Prophet’s Family

Photo: Mom,Mai,Brother Khanh, Mrs. Nam Bien, Phophet Huynh 's sister

To my mother, Hoa Hao village is an endless source of stories she cannot forget and can talk about forever. The most interesting stories are about the Prophet's family.


During her youth my mother used to go frequently to the house of Duc Ong (the father of Prophet Huynh; literally Duc Ong means his Holiness the Elder, the Senior, or the Lord) to do volunteer work. My mother, the prophet’s younger sister Nam Bien, and a girl named Nam Kiet were close friends. The girls slept under the same mosquito net, ate food over the same tray, and even wore each other’s clothes. It did not make very much difference, because everyone at that time wore mostly brown or black clothes.  The three young girls also worked and worshiped together. After the worship service, the girls got together into one room and recited the Buddha's name together.


The three girls woke before five o’clock every morning and took turns boiling water and preparing tea for Duc Ong and Duc Ba (the mother of the Prophet Huynh Phu So; literally Duc Ba means her Holiness the Elder Lady), then offered the betel tray for them, or sometimes lovingly massaged their arms or legs.


At this time my mother was still staying in Saigon and attending the school of culinary art, in front of Ton Tho Tuong High School. This was a vocational school where French instructors taught sewing, embroidery, cooking, and patisserie (baking pastries). Each year the school held an exhibition to show their highly refined products. My mother returned to Hoa Hao village only during summer breaks and holiday seasons. She was the daughter of a rich family living in an adjacent village, but she cultivated a faithful religious life and was devoted to Hoa Hao Buddhism since her childhood.


At first, she had to strive hard to accommodate a dedicated lifestyle. Her tiny hands, which had been accustomed only to meticulous embroidery work, now had to clean huge caldrons of rice husks. She still remembers once when Duc Ong told her to try carrying buckets of water with a pole across the shoulders. She asked the man who usually did the job to put two water buckets down.  Then she tried to lift the pole onto her skinny shoulders and to step ahead with that burden. It was really too heavy for her! Born with a silver spoon, until then she had never actually had to do anything, especially not hard work.  So it was impossible for her to carry two buckets of water on her shoulders.

Photo: Duc Ong and Duc Ba : Prophet Huynh' parents at the Ancestral Temple ( To Dinh Phat Giao Hoa Hao)


Duc Ong and Duc Ba loved my mother very much. They said she was so sweet, sincere, and diligent, and never missed a chance to serve others. Every day she took the duty of cleaning the Buddha's altar and reading the Prophet's teachings --- and she did these things every day even though during this period the government frequently watched the believers’ activities and people did not dare to come to the Ancestral Temple as often as they had before. She read only for trusted members of the church, unlike the next period --- when the French government moved the Prophet far away --- when she would read officially and openly.


My mother said that although she was from a rich family, after following the Religion and listening to the Prophet's teachings about the meaning of complete spiritual and material sacrifice, she wore the simple religious brown tunic with black cotton trousers. Whenever she was going to do good works, she also left her wooden-clogged leather slippers and walked barefoot like everyone else. However, she laughed and confided to me, “At that time, in the village, women who wore bras were subject to other people's mockeries. Therefore, my mother had to sew her own underwear, which was a piece of thick cotton with thirty buttons to cover her chest with care. This piece of clothing had to be washed and dried with discretion. The girls’ trousers were in the old style with crossed bias pieces, not the style with the bottom sewn in the middle. Their blouses had shell buttons, not pressed buttons. Their hair had to be combed straight over the head, not parted on the side, also to avoid being mocked. Long fingernails were also prohibited.”


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