The Buddhist Monk and a Buddha’s Delight Candle

Buddha’s Delight is a vegan friendly Cantonese Dish that is often found on Chinese-American restaurant menus. It was originally created by Chinese Buddhist monks who in practicing their faith, eschewed eating any meat products; opting instead for total vegetarian fare. This dish traditionally features stir fried vegetables with sliced bean curd.

In my family’s ancestral village of Fou Shek, Floating Stone, which lies in the Guangdong Province outside the city of Guangzhou (Canton), Buddhist monks from a nearby temple would visit the village on a daily basis. Devout families would donate rice, vegetables, and other food supplies for the monks to take home to their temple. As with the Christian commandments and the Muslim pillars, in Buddhism charity was considered a virtuous act.

Although my paternal grandfather’s family was quite poor, my grandmother used to give a bit of rice to these monks whenever they came by the family home. This practice ended some time during the 1930’s after my paternal grandfather’s family was converted to Christianity by American Presbyterian missionaries. Family lore has it that when grandfather came home to find a monk in the kitchen, he grabbed the unfortunate man by the scruff of his robe and booted him out the door while shouting, “HALLELUJAH, I’M A CHRISTIAN!”

While my cousins have always laughed at this story, I remember being bothered when I first heard it. In the Bible, 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 says, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

I don’t think that Christ would have stopped to consider that the Buddhist monk believed in a different faith. It seems to me that charity should be for anyone in need.

During the recent Covid closures that were first mandated in my area by the Nevada state governor in March of 2020, a lot of people lost their jobs after all of the local casinos and resorts closed. Since I was fortunate enough to keep my job as a teacher, I donated my Covid stimulus checks to local charities, splitting them evenly between the Luv for Paws shelter in Kingman (which is where I got three of my four cats) and the Colorado River Food Bank which serves the communities of Laughlin, Nevada and Bullhead City, Arizona.

In donating funds to these organizations, I didn’t ask the managers of these programs what their politics or religious beliefs were. Charity is charity and ought not be weaponized. People who are in need shouldn’t be discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, or political beliefs. In times of crisis I think that we all need to stand together both as Americans and as human beings.

In thinking about the monks who used to visit our ancestral home, I decided to make this Buddha’s Delight candle. It includes Brussels Sprouts, baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers, baby corn, bean curd, and mushrooms. It smells of ginger, garlic, and peppers.

Here is a side by side comparison of my candle with a real dish of Buddha’s Delight.

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