San Francisco Chapter's first Virtual Annual General Meeting
While the year 2020 pitted the world against great odds, BLIA San Francisco Chapter remained unmoved despite the pandemic and held its Annual General Meeting themed “Joyful Get Together” on 13th December virtually for the first time. The organizers creatively ran a game show quiz based on BLIA’s member handbook for the 200 members who attended the meeting. To cater to non-Mandarin-speaking members, live interpretations were available in Cantonese and English. This brought a homely experience for the members, demonstrating the spirit of, “I Am Among the Multitude,” by Venerable Master Hsing Yun.
Katy Hsu, president of the Chapter, thanked the vice president, administrative, information, and all other teams for their collective work that resulted in the successful commencement of this meeting. Before the work report, President Hsu expressed her gratitude towards the subchapters, for their display of resolve in the face of difficulties throughout this special year, upholding the spirit of “Where There Is Dharma, There Is a Way” by the Venerable Master. The members bravely and diligently dealt with many challenges, exhibiting the spirit of “Three Acts of Goodness and Four Givings,” served the community and cared for their members under the leadership of their guiding Venerables. Everyone also continued to support the temple, chapter affairs, and participate in various BLIA activities, such as Global Buddha's Light Simultaneous Sutra Transcription, “Vege Plan A” for environmental and spiritual conservation, BLIA World Conference, North America Sounds of the Human World Competition, and even in the recently concluded North America BLIA Buddhist Examination, where many had achieved outstanding results.
In addition to reporting on this year’s affairs and activities, proposals for next year’s activities were discussed: How to deepen the BLIA executive members’ understanding about BLIA, services in smaller regions, participation in Vege Plan A, San Francisco “Three Acts of Goodness in the World” photography and videography competition, Celebration of Buddha's Birthday and Buddha’s Light Day, and the set up of BLIA San Francisco Chapter’s website and Facebook page.
A swearing-in ceremony was also held for 21 new members, as well as an award ceremony for 20 outstanding members selected by their respective subchapter. Li Bowen, a new member of the San Francisco Subchapter, said, “When I took the oath to become a member, I was very touched because Fo Guang Shan is a big family full of positive energy and warmth. When I came to San Bao Temple, it was like returning home; I get along well with other Dharma friends in a harmonious atmosphere. After becoming a member, I hope that I can continue to diligently study Buddhism and alongside with other members to work hard in promoting the Dharma and benefitting all sentient beings.”
BLIA YAD - San Francisco’s outstanding member Winson Yang shared, “I learned to practice the Four Givings through serving the YADs and everyone. I normally do not speak much, but now learn how to praise others with different vocabularies, giving them confidence and hope; use actions to give others joy and convenience. Humanistic Buddhism allows me to expand my heart and embrace all affinities.” Li Mengfen of Foster City subchapter said, “I am very surprised to receive the honor. I want to thank the BLIA for providing many opportunities to learn Buddhism, allowing me to volunteer at the service desk at IBPS Fremont. It allowed me to realize the Dharma through service to others."
Finally, Abbess of Fo Guang Shan Northern California Venerable Ru Yang expressed her gratitude towards all BLIA members for their tireless work and support for the four branch temples during the pandemic throughout the year. She quoted from Venerable Master Hsing Yun, “Good causes and conditions lead to success,” and thanked all the staff who had worked hard behind the scenes. At the same time, Venerable Ru Yang encouraged everyone to stay home, and while on the surface this appears to be inconvenient, it gives opportunities for self-enrichment and self-improvement. As the saying goes, all the unfavorable circumstances are positive conditions for self-growth. Venerable Ru Yang also used online conferences as an example to explain the concept of non-duality of emptiness and existence. Finally, she encouraged everyone to apply what they have learned, as Buddhism emphasizes on practice. As the Dharma can be observed everywhere; if one dedicates oneself, one can be enlightened anytime and anywhere.