I was promised to him before I was born. Back in Vietnam when I was seven, dressed in a long, loose, blue-grey robe, I was guided to make pledges to obey his family’s rules and live a good, model life. At the end of the ceremony to accept me into his family, I was given the Buddhist name ‘Diệu Hiền’ , which meant gentle and meek.
I fell in love with him for I was attracted to him by his pensive and moral characteristics. On full moons, he would invite me over and cook delicious vegetarian meals for me. The smell of sandalwood incense, the smile of the Buddha statue looking down at us, the chanting of Buddhist prayers, the echo of the Buddhist bell, these things filled the air with solemn yet romantic feelings.
At the threshold between the old and new year, when the clock stroked at midnight and the firecrackers exploded noisily in trains, I stood with him among the mass of people. Looking up into the sky of the thick dark night, we prayed to Buddha for a new prosperous, healthy and happy new year.
If I hadn’t welcomed in the new year with him, he would open his door to welcome our family on Chinese New Year Day. Amidst the thick smoke of incense, my parents would pick a small branch of a plant or a shrub at his place to display at home later as a symbol of collecting wealth for the new year. In the meantime, I would shake an oblong small drum that contained small sticks marked with different symbols until one stick fell out. The stick would be exchanged for a reading of my horoscope for the coming year.
After arriving in Australia, we live in a small and quiet town. He has since changed, and it broke my heart when I discovered the sordid truth about him.
There was rumour in the community that the people whom he let to inhabit his home broke their religious vows of chastity among themselves.
He keeps on building his place of work bigger and bigger. He sold vegetarian food at his residence but at festivals, there were stalls selling food made with meat under his name. The Buddhist rule was disobeyed for profit.
He seems commercially minded when residential places were built on his land and rented out to people.
To please his followers, he even created Buddhist wedding ceremonies performed in his place to match the Catholic services!
The old who long for a religious haven and the young who look for a traditional worship site ignore his flaws and continue to visit him, yet there are others who despise him and boycott his activities.
His parents are Buddha and Buddhism. He is the Vietnamese temple.
I feel ashamed to be connected with him these days in my new country. In my heart, I have disowned him forever.
I had loved you with my virgin heart.
Love at first sight, when I was seven.
I dreamt that we’d never be apart,
‘Cause we were a match made in heaven.
I loved your pensive and moral sides,
I vowed that I’d be a good Buddhist,
Your teachings gave me the strong life guides,
To love and become an altruist.
In Australia, you make me ashamed,
You break the rules, you break your vow!
You turn money-skilful to be famed,
You want to be bigger than you’re now.
I don’t want to see you anymore!
‘Cause I have disowned you forever.
I don’t love you like I did before,
And I don’t see you in my future!