SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. — Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA-NJ) hosted four days of events beginning on the eve of February 15th to celebrate the Chinese New Year at the New Jersey Buddhist Culture Center in South Plainfield.  The Center welcomed the New Year with time honored traditions of ceremonious light and incense offerings, striking of the bell, Positive Forecast of Life Dharma Verses, Tea Tasting, Vegetarian Food Bazaar and Chinese New Year Special Dharma Services.

“We start with a special Chinese New Year’s Eve Service followed by several days of programs,” said Yiwen Chiang, President of BLIA New Jersey Chapter.  “We have a morning service for New Year’s Day, then Saturday we have the Vegetarian Food Bazaar and Sunday is the formal ceremony for the New Year. So every day we have something different going on.”

Also known as the Spring Festival in modern China, Chinese New Year is an important festival celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar.  South Plainfield’s Chapter of Buddha’s Light International Association works to make the event a special time for families and the community.

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"Every time I am invited to the New Jersey Buddhist Culture Center, it is always an amazing and spiritual experience,” said Councilman Joseph Wolak. “The congregation is very warm and friendly and they treat the governing body with the utmost respect.  Once inside it is easy to forget that you are in still in South Plainfield.”

Services began with a Chinese New Year’s Eve Dharma Service and First Incense Offering.  Presiding Monk Venerable Chueh Chan led the ceremony.

“New Year’s Eve is a time for all the families to get together,”  said Karen Sun, Board of Directors BLIA-NJ.  “It’s a tradition for many Chinese to go into a temple to make an offering either light or incense to offer blessings to the Buddha for a peaceful and prosperous year.  The intent of the ceremony is for longevity, prosperity, and happiness to be with us for the year.”

“We are here to pray, worship God and respect the relatives who have passed,” said Steven Yu, longtime BLIA member. “We wish the Buddha would bring a lot of luck to all of us.”

South Plainfield’s New Jersey Buddhist Culture Center is a Buddhist Temple established in October 1995 under the delegation of Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the 48th patriarch of the Linchi (Rinzai) Ch'an School.

“Our Venerable Master Hsing Yun will turn 93 years old and is still working very hard,” said Chiang.  “He’s so hardworking and I admire him a lot.”

The Chinese New Year is a time of both celebration and reverence while practicing the beliefs and traditions of Buddhism.

“What I love most about Buddhism is the compassion,”  said Chiang.  “We not only care about people in the temple, we care about the whole community.  We believe that with Buddha’s help, his inspiration and his teaching, we can work on ourselves to become a better person.”

The temple provides a source for people in the South Plainfield community to understand Buddha’s teachings and have the opportunity to practice Humanistic Buddhism in daily life. 

“We speak beautiful words, then we do good and in our mind we watch our thoughts because Buddhism believes that ideas start the process, which is why we do the meditation to learn to concentrate without other disturbances,” added Chiang.  “By working hard and taking the lessons from Buddha, we can become like a Buddha, who cares for everybody with great compassion and wisdom.  I think that’s a beautiful thing.”

The Chinese New Year is also celebrated with sweets.  Oranges were given out after the New Year’s Eve service because the vibrant bright color of the orange symbolizes good fortune and the sound of the Chinese word for orange means luck.  An elaborate display of candies from across the globe lined the halls of the center.

“We also have an exhibition of candy from around the world because Chinese New Year is a very sweet time for family and friends,” added Chiang.

Many South Plainfield residents and city officials had the opportunity to take part in the ceremonies.

“We were able to participate in a small part of the Chinese New Year's celebration, each of us individually reading a Chinese New Year's wish and ringing a large Gong,”  added Wolak.  “Afterward, we were able to taste some of the delicious Chinese food available at their food Bazaar. " 

“A lot of people think that vegetarian food is good for your health and is not tasty, but no, it’s so delicious!” added Chiang.   

“It was a pleasure to attend the Chinese New Year Vegetarian Food Bazaar,”  said Mayor Matthew Anesh.  “The event was part of the Chinese New Year Blessing Ceremony they ran for several days.  I was impressed by the variety of vegetarian dishes at the festival.”

“It’s not just like we close the door and do our service,” added Chiang. “We want to be a part of the community and we want to contribute ourselves.  We believe that we are all friends and we work together to make the world a better place.” 

All are welcome to attend weekly Sunday Services from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the New Jersey Buddhist Culture Center located at 1007 New Brunswick Avenue in South Plainfield. A free vegetarian lunch is offered afterward.  Many regular programs are held at the center such as group practices, Dharma talk, sutra/book study, meditation and vegetarian cooking classes as well as educational and spiritual activities.  Contact BLIA at 908-822-8620 or email newjersey@ibps.org for more information.