As many of you probably already know, this past weekend, and for some this week as well, has been the celebration of the Lunar Chinese New Year. Our family did common New Year activities that many people probably also partake in – visiting a temple, burning paper money for ancestors, gathering for a big family dinner, receiving red envelopes. While scanning through Google Reader this morning, I came across an interesting article titled “Business of Chinese New Year”, featured on the Belief.net website. The article basically talks about how Chinese New Year has become one of Las Vegas’ “most critical holidays”, as vacationers come for gambling, performances, shopping, and even just a short getaway.
While reading the article, what got to me was not the main issue at hand, but rather that the article was posted on Belief.net in the first place. There were no religious/spiritual references in the article nor did they mention anything about how religion plays a role in Chinese New Year. I could not figure out why Belief.net would post such an article, especially since their mission is “to help people like you find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness”. Unless of course, they assumed Chinese New Year is a religious holiday! Well, is it? Read more
This past Thanksgiving my father let me borrow his wooden travel altar. In a lot of respects, this altar isn’t very unique. It’s a generic Pure Land altar. On the outside is written 佛光普照 ([Amitabha] Buddha’s light is all-illuminating) and 普度眾生 (universal salvation).
(At first, I thought the second line had a misspelling — you more often see 普渡眾生 — but apparently both spellings are okay. If you happen to be a Chinese speaker and can think of a better translation for this line, please let me know!)
The cool aspect is that this altar was designed for travel. Not only does it fold shut, it also locks itself without any sort of fastening device. At first I wasn’t able to open at all. I was about to pry it open with a knife, when my father snatched it from me. To open it, you have to press down on the top and tilt it to the side. The box then swings open on its own.
I came across the murky but fascinating idea on Wikipedia, and it goes a little something like this: just as we got Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit when Classical Sanskrit was affected by Prakrit vocabulary and grammar, and we got Buddhist Hybrid Chinese when Classical Chinese was affected by the former, the language of English Buddhist Literature is new and different because it tries to convey the concepts in Buddhist canonical languages using English language structures.
Presenting: Buddhist Hybrid English.