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Monks honor Buddha's birthday, mothers

By Greg Clary, lohud.com, Monday, May 11, 2009

KENT (Putnam) Hundreds of visitors yesterday helped monks at the Chuang Yen Monastery celebrate two special occasions - Buddha's birthday and Mother's Day.

From special cultural performances to mark the festivities to a drop-in clinic for Eastern medicine, those in attendance got as much spirituality as they did family time watching dancers, martial arts experts, singers and a virtuoso violinist who is in her first year of high school.

Chris and Mitsuko Antal of Wappingers Falls, parents of five kids between the ages of 4 and 9, brought their brood to enjoy a Buddhist celebration like those Mitsuko practiced in her Japanese household.

"We even got Buddha haircuts for all of us boys," Chris Antal said, lifting his hat to show newly shorn stubble that matched his three sons' heads.

"It's good for the kids. They get a little bit of the culture. We're a multiracial family with multiple religions. They love coming here. They love going to church on Sunday."

Judging from the respite from kid-wrangling his wife got, Antal obviously remembered the other half of the special day.

So did Kent Supervisor Kathy Doherty, herself a mother of four, who spoke in honor of both celebrations but focused on the area she knew best.

"There's no mystery at all to being a mother," Doherty said, after joking about her sons believing that she developed X-ray vision and bionic hearing to keep them in line.

"It's on-the-job training. Sometimes children can be your best teacher. I've learned I had to let go."

She reminded the mothers in the audience to "enjoy being a mom and every minute with your children."

Many of the kids in attendance were enthralled by the martial arts and weapons demonstration by Walter Zuazo and his three teenage warriors-in-training.

Zuazo, 51, has studied since the age of 8 in a form of martial arts that traces its roots back 34 generations.

Yesterday, he drew applause and a few gasps when he danced and whipped a staff that had three sections connected by chains, menacing even when it was stationary.

"It's a difficult weapon to master," Zuazo said. "You need time to learn."

His performance with a broadsword and chain whip was no mere encore, as he swung both dangerously close to those brave enough to stand at the edge of his circle.

The loudest applause, however, was for Sirena Huang, a ninth-grader from West Hartford, Conn., who has been playing the violin since she was 3 and by 11 had performed for the king and queen of Jordan and met the Dalai Lama.

"When I started, I sounded horrible," Huang quietly told the crowd after finishing four short classical pieces. "It took a long time."

Bhikkhu Bodhi, one of the members of the monastery, shook hands and offered his thanks as he smiled at the turnout and the day.

"It's always a day of celebration," Bodhi said of Buddha's birthday. "It's always full of rituals, ceremonies and learning."

source: http://www.lohud.com/article/2009905110324

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Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa.
Buddha sāsana.m cira.m ti.t.thatu.