Celebration for Respecting the Elderly
by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Good and Wise Advisors: Today we are holding a Celebration to Respect the Elderly in Sacramento. This is called "attending to the foundation." An ancient sage said, "A superior person attends to the foundation. Once the foundation is established, the Way comes forth." And what is the foundation? The saying continues, "Are not filiality and fraternity the foundation of humaneness?" Filiality and fraternity are fundamental to being a person. Attending to the foundation is also repaying our foundation and searching for our roots, finding out where we came from. All people come into being from their parents. Only with parents can there be children, siblings, and the next generation. The next generation shouldn't forget the kindness shown them by the previous generation. They should "repay their roots," that is, repay the kindness of their parents. This is also called "attending to the foundation."

The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association has set two celebrations. In the spring and summer, we will hold a celebration to cherish the youth. In the fall and winter, we will hold a celebration to respect the elderly. This is in accord with the maxim, "Carefully attend to the funeral rites of parents and follow them when gone with due sacrifices. Then the virtue of the people will resume its proper excellence." We musn't forget the foundation. If we forget the foundation, then we won't have any roots, and the leaves and branches will wither. Then the descendants will not prosper, and the country will not be strong. With a weak country, the people will be without protection. Therefore, we must love our country, love our family, and cherish ourselves. The country, family, and self are three, and yet one, one and yet three. If you are not healthy, then your family will not be well, and the country will not be strong. So we must establish our foundation.

By cherishing the youth, we are nurturing our roots to be deep and thick. Young people are like sprouts. When you add fertilizer to them, they grow and flourish very well. In the future, they will bloom and bear fruit which is ripe and mature. That's why we are holding these celebrations to respect the elderly and cherish the youth. The dates are not fixed yet, but I think we can have the celebration to respect the elderly on the first Sunday in November. This is a very suitable time, neither too hot nor too cold. The celebration for cherishing youth can be on the last Sunday in May, when it's also neither hot nor cold. That's when the myriad forms of life are being born and growing. All the flowers and plants are blooming and thriving. This is a very good time for cherishing the youth. Nevertheless, if any of you have a better suggestion, that's even better. I'm suggesting that the celebration for respecting the elderly be the first Sunday in November, and the celebration for cherishing youth be the last Sunday in May. Then it will be easy for people to remember these dates. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and other branch temples can all hold their own local celebrations on these days, and invite the local elders and young people. That way, the old people won't have to travel too far, because it's very tiring for them to travel, and it would be inconsiderate to ask them to do so.

Why should the celebrations for cherishing youth be held locally? Although young people like to travel and think trips are fun, it's not suitable for young people to have to travel too far, either. So each temple can hold its own local celebration. These are two new holidays in American Buddhism. I noticed that there's already a Father's Day and Mother's Day, but no Elders' Day. Following the principle that we should "Treat others' elders as our own, and regard others' children as our own," we are celebrating to respect elders and cherish the youth. Then the people who have no children can also receive the respect of young people, and children who have no parents can receive the care and concern of adults. Human feelings demand that we should respect and care for one another. This is a very good custom, and we should promote it in every country. We should change the trends, and let even those countries who are stubbornly resistant to know the meaning of respecting the elderly and cherishing the youth. Then we can turn the trend of the world around. That's our goal.

This way, the children will no longer kill people, set fires, deal drugs, or smuggle contraband. They won't engage in such illegal activities, and the old people won't just lie in bed and smoke opium. When they see young people treating them with respect, they will respect themselves. When young people see adults showing concern for them, they will also start taking care of themselves. If we respect the elderly, then others will respect us when we are old. However, we shouldn't respect the elderly just because we want people to respect us. We should practice the Way of Heaven and love the people.

You should know that some young people have come to serve the elderly at this celebration. Some are doctors, others are professors, and others work in the government. They have all come serve the elderly, so all of you elderly people should feel good.

I know a doctor from Los Angeles named Huang Minlu, who is only in his thirties. He and his wife have come here to serve everyone. Therefore, rest assured that you won't get heart disease after eating this vegetarian meal, because he is a heart specialist. Since he is serving the food, all of you will certainly enjoy good health and longevity.