Sunday, February 07, 2010

I have registered

As a life-long student that is, in the Buddhist school of inner peace, of serenity of thought, of compassion, of giving, of letting go, and of spiritual enlightenment, by undergoing the Taking of the Three Refuges ceremony.

Hitherto I was auditing the Buddhist course so to speak, driving Wify to various venues of Dharma sessions, and mostly listening in along the way. Then on January 9, 2010, I took the leap, at the behest of Wify's persistent cajoling, wanting me to walk the life-long path with her in search of Buddhist wisdom and to practice compassion.

And the occasion was the Dharma session on the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch organized by Sister Conchita Hsu and delivered by Venerable Jian Zong whom we have met on several previous occasions (here and here) and who is presently the Abbott of the Chung Tai Zen Center of Houston. The venue, the University Inn on East Colonial Dr, Orlando, one which we too have frequented on several prior occasions. The hall was lined with Buddhist verses that conferred an ambience of serenity, engulfing the attendees in a sea of tranquility.

Buddhist verses on the walls adding to the aura of Dharma bliss, thanks to the Chinese calligraphy and artwork of Sister Wendy, a reporter with the World Journal based in Orlando who also did a news report here, including a group photo.

It was a 2-day session, and we drove on both days to the venue from Tampa. In addition to the Dharma talks, Venerable Jian Zong also conducted meditation classes to calm the body, and more importantly, the mind. We also participated in an introductory Tai-Chi class taught by Venerable Jian Tsan.

Finishing up the 2-day Dharma event was the Taking the Three Refuges ceremony during which the disciples vowed to follow the Three Jewels (or Triple Gem) of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha (monastic order). We underwent the entire ceremony, simple and yet solemn, under the watchful guidance of Venerable Jian Zong, who presided on behalf of Venerable Grand Monk Wei Chueh, the founder of the Chung Tai Chan Monastry. At the end of the ceremony, each of us received a certificate of the three refuges, granting each of us a unique Dharma name. The literal English translation of mine is propagating acumen, or foresight. I'm indeed honored by the bestowal and will strive to live up to it.

The great vows that we as Buddhist disciples profess during the Taking the Three Refuges ceremony.

The certificate received by the Buddhist disciples at the end of the ceremony, to go along with the bracelet of wooden beads that now fits snugly on my left wrist.

What's next for a kindergarten student like me? Taking the Five Precepts in the not too distant future. Right now though, the immediate task is to actualize the Buddhist teachings as embodied in the Taking the Refuge in the Three Jewels.

Venerable Master Jian Zong explaining the difference between sudden and gradual enlightenment as exemplified by the famous Buddhist verses put forth by the Sixth Patriarch, Master Hui Neng, and Venerable Shen Xiu, with Venerable Jian Tsan providing the Chinese text as needed.

A group photo of the Tampa entourage with Venerable Master Jian Zong taken by Venerable Jian Tsan.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Spritual Renaissance

Domestic Violence. Wife battery. Those were the initial thoughts occupying Venerable Chang-Hwa's mind one day when she was attending to a lady devotee who seemed visibly shaken at the Buddhist Temple she was stationed, not long after her ordainment as a Buddhist nun under the late Venerable Grand Master Sheng Yen. “What did Shi Fu teach us under this circumstance?”

She continued to stall for time while churning her mind trying to look for an appropriate response. Meanwhile, she learned that their children knew about the incident as well. "That's not good," she reasoned.

Then the question followed naturally. “Why did he hit you?”

“Well, he likes to donate to orphanages and welfare homes. And I always nag him as it's like throwing away good money.”

“Huh?”. And after a palpable sigh of relief, Venerable Chang-Hwa was in her elements. “Do you know what great blessings your husband have accrued by giving to others? It's a tremendous act of kindness that should invite praise, not criticism. You're indeed blessed to have him as your husband whom you should cherish.”

After a brief moment of bewilderment, the woman's face beamed. That's how a change of perspective can tip the emotional balance from utter outrage to gratitude.

The above anecdote is just one of many that Venerable Chang-Hwa shared with us on Jan 24, 2010 in Clearwater, a Dharma session organized by Brother Peter and Sister Nancy Kau on behalf of the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association (DDMBA).

Entitled the Art of Letting Go, Venerable Chang-Hwa, who is the Director of the New York Ch'an Meditation, led the attendees through the various pathways toward cultivating inner peace and leading a life that is devoid of cravings, but instead, one filled with compassion and rich with giving that are enshrined in the Living Proposition for the 21th Century as encapsulated in the 5/4 movement of the Mind, a thoughtful legacy from the late Grand Master Sheng Yen who has worked tirelessly to inject tranquility into the daily hustle and bustle of the masses through Buddhist practice and meditation. (The image of the Late Grand Master on the right is taken from the newsletter of the Malaysian Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhism Information Center.

The 5 refers to the five realms, and the 4, virtuous pathways under each of the realms. Captioned as the Spiritual Renaissance, the 5/4 Movement of the Mind has its roots in protecting the four environments (Spiritual, Living, Natural, and Social) that the late Master Sheng Yen first advocated in 1992. The bilingual version of the essence of the 5/4 Movement of the Mind appears below, courtesy of Wify's Chinese calligraphy based on the handouts and the DDMBA website for the English translation:

Fivefold Spiritual Renaissance - A Proposition for Living in the 21st Century

The Four Fields for Cultivating Peace

To uplift the character of humanity, we propose to cultivate:

* Peaceful Mind through being content and having few desires.
* Peaceful Body through diligence and a simple life.
* Peaceful Family through love and respect for each other.
* Peaceful Conduct through peaceful thoughts, words, and actions.

The Four Guidelines for Dealing with Desires

A proposal for calming minds:

* Our needs are few.
* Our desires are many.
* Pursue only what we can and should acquire.
* Never pursue what we can’t and shouldn’t acquire.

The Four Steps for Handling a Problem

A proposal for resolving difficulties in life:

* Face it: Face the problem, do not deny its existence.
* Accept it: Accept the reality; everything happens for a reason.
* Handle it: Take care of things with wisdom, and take care of people with compassion.
* Let it go: Make best efforts to resolve the matter, regardless of its outcome

The Four Practices for Helping Oneself and Others

A proposal for getting along with others:

* Be grateful for favorable and adverse situations that nurture our growth.
* Be thankful for opportunities to offer ourselves to others.
* Be reflective on improving ourselves through meditation, contrition and beginning anew.
* Be inspiring to others through our behavior.

The Four Ways to Cultivate Blessings

A proposal for increasing blessings:

* Recognize our blessings: be content and happy.
* Cherish our blessings: treasure what we have and repay the kindness that we have received.
* Nurture our blessings: share with others and give to those in need.
* Sow the seeds of our blessings: benefit all people with the growth of wisdom and compassion.

They are self-explanatory. The hard part is to embrace them in our daily life, making ourselves the living proof of the spiritual renaissance, one day at a time.

Sister Nancy Kau introducing the Dharma teacher of the Day, Venerable Chang-Hwa.

Venerable Chang-Hwa engagingly answering a question from the floor.

The attentive audience.

A group photo, courtesy of Brother Peter Kau.