Story: SON NAM

Start the new year with a spiritual journey to Huong Pagoda.

When spring arrives and the weather turns mild, new buds sprout, and blooms show off their bright colors to greet the season in every house across Vietnam. Every family joyfully opens their doors to usher in spring during the traditional Lunar New Year Festival.

“The green grass spreads out to the horizon

The pear trees are speckled with white flowers.”

(The Tale of Kieu – Nguyen Du)

Huong Tich Cave

With a few simple words, the great poet Nguyen Du painted a marvelous picture of spring.

Spring arrives, then leaves. Spring – Summer – Autumn – Winter follow each other as all things constantly change. “Whatever is phenomenal is impermanent” is a basic principle. It is also a universal principle in the finite impermanent world. If human beings remain wary of change and cling to a fixed state, their fears and attachments will obstruct the growth, evolution, and improvement of humanity. Thus, changes and evolutions in this finite and impermanent world should be a source of common joy for all.

The observable changes of all things in the universe are merely superficial adjustments, while the true essence of everything is eternal. Even though we live in a finite and impermanent world, our spirits do not fall into nothingness but often attain serenity. As such, human beings can live in harmony with Mother Earth and the eternal spring of nature. Together with the finite spring that changes with time and space, there is also an endless spring that cannot be restrained by time nor separated by space. This endless spring is the permanent peaceful spring within our human spirit. This is our original face and the inner Lord of Spring within each of us.

Huong Pagoda is the most famous destination in Vietnam for a spring pilgrimage

In the spring, colorful flowers decorate all of Huong Son Mountain. White plum blossoms are in full bloom, and cotton trees are aflame with vivid red flowers. The people, the land, and the skies of Huong Son greet wayfarers and pilgrims who come to pay homage to the ancient cave of Huong Tich and meld their spirits with the nature of this sacred mountain blessed by the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.

“A forest stream gently flows in Huong Son

Sacred cranes traverse the clouds in the early mornings and late nights

A lotus throne dwells in the mountains

This most beautiful Southern cave will last for a thousand autumns.”

Spring pilgrimages have been a treasured Vietnamese custom for thousands of years. Embarking on a pilgrimage to the sacred spiritual land – the land of a Vietnamese Buddha or Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva of Huong Son Pagoda – is a beautiful cultural practice that transcends time and space.

New leaves on a bodhi tree

We all know that a festival is a form of collective cultural activity and an effective way to spread national cultural values and promote the intangible values of a community or an entire nation. Festivals are also righteous events created to meet inalienable spiritual human needs when Buddhism was localized to fit the lifestyles of different communities and locales.

Only during festivals do humans have a good chance to sublimate their inner feelings and virtues to join a shared atmosphere of celebration and create common joy for their village or region during the holidays. The Huong Pagoda Festival is no exception to this traditional form of culture. This festival deeply illustrates the nature of Vietnamese Buddhism, with believers and pilgrims making up 85% of annual visitors to this site. With large crowds visiting this site over the long festive season, this festival is one of the most joyful celebrations in Vietnam.

The Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in Huong Tich Cave

Known since the days when King Le Thanh Tong (1460 – 1497) traveled here on his second inspection tour, and established by the Founding Patriarch, the history and culture of Huong Pagoda, together with the imposing nature that surrounds it, create a landscape of “mysteriously beautiful mountains and waters”.

Twelve Masters have presided over Huong Pagoda: the Founding Patriarch, followed by 11 consecutive Masters who constantly developed the pagoda and taught the Dharma to the people. Huong Son’s area and festival have expanded in scale. When the Founding Patriarch planted his khakkhara (a staff with chimes used to frighten away wild animals) and built a small thatched-roof pagoda at Huong Son, he created a place for believers to visit, adore, and pay respect to the Triple Gems. He further decorated this wonderful land for future generations to enjoy. Thanks to their accomplishments, the Founding Patriarch and subsequent Masters fulfilled their responsibilities to Buddhism, the nation, and human life.

When the spring sun shines, heaven, earth, and human beings fall into harmony, erasing barriers of prejudice, and creating emotions that unify humans and nature in the spring season and unite Life and the Way of the Bodhi.

Boats on Yen Stream

As spring leisurely returns, the earth shifts

The elegant strains of universal music resonate from every direction

The soul awakens in a moment of sympathy

All troubled waters will surely calm

As the heavens and earth joyously receive the returning spring

Pilgrims of the Buddha pack the streets.

grims of the Buddha pack the streets. Let your disappointments and worries flow away with the waters of Yen Stream, and return to the “mysteriously beautiful mountains and waters”. Immerse yourself in Nature and put yourself under the auspices of the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.