Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A memorable event at the Memorial Service for the Late Master Sheng Yen

Last Sunday, we sped along I-4 in the afternoon, hovering tantalizingly close around the speed limit. A minivan load of seven, me at the helm, was then making its way to Orlando to attend the memorial service for the late Master Sheng Yen. In my rush, I turned into the opposite lane at 408, necessitating a detour and a U-turn to head back to the correct direction, arriving at our destination, the University Inn along E Colonial Drive, late by about ten minutes.

Then I parked at the wrong lot, one owned by a neighboring eatery, and had to move the car to the designated lot while Wify and her entourage made a beeline into the venue first. When I joined the back of the hall several minutes later, the service had already started, the august hall filled with the mind calming chanting of Heart Sutra. Palms joined and eyes closed, I joined the congregation. This was followed by the repeated recitation of Buddha's name, Namo Amitabha, which I participated by silent intonation.

Next up was the slide presentation on the various snapshots of the life of the Master Sheng Yen, right from the time when he was a schoolboy back in China, covering his academic sojourn in Japan and his ascension as a world renowned religious leader, sharing the world stage with many other prominent personalities of the faith such as His Holiness Damai Lama, and standing at the podium of the United Nations addressing the world's heads of government on the issue of world peace and harmony. I recall one anecdote in which his Master admonished him to be a Buddhist teacher, but not a Buddhist scholar.

The simple but solemn memorial service, as Master Sheng Yen would have wanted, concluded with an open session for any attendee who wished to make remarks/observations of the occasion. Amidst several lay followers of Master Sheng Yen who recounted their personal interactions with their beloved Master, two representatives from Orlando-based Buddhist Organizations, Fo Guang Shan and Tzu Chi, also took their turn to express their condolences. It was indeed a heart-warming moment to witness this denomination-transcending participation that augurs well for the continuing flourishing of Buddhism in the area.

The hallmark of simplicity, dignity, and solemnness that announces the purpose of the event.

A composite of some of Master Sheng Yen's sayings on display.

The table-full of publications of Master Sheng Yen dedicated to his immense contribution to Buddhist literature (above and below).

The slide presentation on the life of Master Sheng Yen in progress.

A group photo of the attendees.