Give Them a Hand Foundation’s (GTAH) founder and chairman, Gordon Tapper was a special guest of the Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA) to the Fo Guang Shan celebration of Buddha’s birthday in Taipei, in May, 2013. Fo Guang Shan is one of the largest Buddhist orders throughout the world and is the largest in Taiwan. BLIA is the international arm of Fo Guang Shan.
The celebratory event took place Sunday, 12 May, 2013 in front of the Presidential office. The celebration was attended by more than 100,000 persons who participated enthusiastically, in spite of more than two (2) hours of torrential in the program which included speeches and entertainment.
Taiwan President Ma Jing-jeou, Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Founder of the Fo Guang Shan Monastery, the Mayor of Taipei, Honorary Chairman of the Kuomanting Political Party, Mr. Wu-Po hsiung and Gordon Tapper, founder of GTAH, all addressed the gathering, including Ambassadors of several countries.
President Ma, in his speech, expressed the desire for people to find peace in their hearts through the power of religion. He added that BLIA urged people “…to think good thoughts, speak kind words and to do good”, habits he found effective in finding peace in one’s heart.
Mr. Tapper spoke of the collaboration of GTAH and BLIA along with partnering organization, United African Congress, in hosting an Interfaith Harmony event at the United Nations in 2012 and 2013 and in doing relief work in communities in New York and New Jersey that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy in November 2012. He added that he looked forward to further collaborative programs in the coming years.
Mr. Tapper, who worships in the Christian tradition, spent a week with his hosts, visiting and touring the Fo Guang Shan Monastery at its Headquarters in Kaohsiung, located in the south of the island as well as the newly opened Buddha Memorial Center.
The Monastery sits on a massive campus and has over 1000 rooms for guests. The Buddha Memorial Center is an impressive religious, cultural and educational complex set on 100 hectares. It has a number of Temples for worship, several museums and several restaurants, all vegetarian. In just over two years after opening, the center has become one of the most visited sites in the world for both Buddhists and non-Buddhists.
One highlight of his visit was a one hour audience with the Venerable Master Hsing Yun in which he spoke of the United Nations being the last real hope for world peace. He offered the support of Fo Guang Shan for any future humanitarian projects that will be undertaken jointly by GTAH and BLIA.
A visit to the three-day Taipei International Vegetarian Expo, organized by BLIA, also provided the GTAH chairman with remarkable insights. This event was held in the Taipei Trade Center which housed more than 500 booths, representing several countries and displaying fruits, vegetables and vegetarian food products and meals of the widest variety.
According to Mr. Tapper, “the discipline of the attendees of the Birthday celebrations as they sat through the driving rain for two and a half hours without any demonstration of displeasure and of the dancers, the singers and the children who performed on stage as if they were in bright sunshine, left a lasting impression.”
Photos courtesy of Pi Lai.