THE BIRTH OF THE BUDDHA SAKYAMUNI
year on April 28th the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha was celebrated by more than
three hundred people in two different ceremonies at Gold Mountain Dhyana
Monastery. The day's activities began at four in the morning with recitation
followed by two hours of meditation. More than thirty hearty adepts, including
Professor Lethcoe and some of her students who traveled about fifty miles from
Stanford, were present when the morning cultivation began.
|Following the morning sitting were two hours of sit ting and walking meditation on the Buddha's name, after which came ceremonies honoring Sakyamuni Buddha and the High Meal Offering. These activities and the vegetarian feast that followed were attended by more than one hundred fifty people who joined the Sangha in the rituals of formal monastic dining.|
|Bathing the Buddha ceremonies began the afternoon activities and everyone in the assembly came forward to pour pure water over the image of the new born Buddha, thereby symbolically cleansing the self-nature and giving birth to the Buddha inherent within every living being. Many leading Buddhists, members of the Sangha, eminent laymen, and scholars, and (in the evening) diplomats from various places throughout the United States and from countries overseas, who came to pay their respects on the Buddha's birthday, delivered addresses to the four-fold assembly, and the audience was entertained by the chanting and singing of Buddhist songs.|
Periods of sitting and walking meditation on the Buddha's name in the Jeweled Hall of the Great Heroes filled out the afternoon, and in the evening similar ceremonies, speeches, and entertainment followed amidst the splendor of golden Buddha images, lights, flowers, incense, chants, and mantras.
Because many Vajra Bodhi Sea readers around the world were not able to be present, some of the speeches will be published here and in succeeding issues. Especially inspiring were the speeches given by Bhiksus Heng Ju and Heng Yo who have now nearly completed a 1,100-mile trek bowing once every three steps for world peace. These speeches appear in this issue.
SRAMANERA HENG KUNG
About the only time I enjoy Dhyana samadhi, which is total absorption, an absolute absorption in what one is presently engaged in, comes about 11:00 o'clock every day when I have a huge bowl of food before me and the opportunity presents itself to feed the vast emptiness within me. Aside from that, my attainment is very small.
It seems appropriate since we are in a Chinese Buddhist Monastery to give a brief outline of the various aspects of Chinese Buddhism. One of the most enjoyable practices that one can engage in the practice of Buddhism is within the T'ien T'ai school where all things are seen as empty and yet enjoy temporal existence as phenomena. This is the truth of the Middle Way as expounded in the T'ien T'ai School. The Buddha nature is everything, and in everyone.
|Now, in the Hua Yen School stress is laid on the interpenetration and mutual identification of all phenomena. The entire universe arises through reciprocal causation. The one is many, and the many are one. Therefore, all things are manifestations of the supreme mind. We all function within this supreme mind in our daily activities, but few there are that have attained awareness of this fact.|
The next school, and perhaps the simplest to practice, requiring a very minimum amount of study, is the Pure Land School, which stresses the recitation of the name Amitabha Buddha. The Pure Land is presided over by the Buddha of Infinite Light, and anyone with absolute faith in him will be reborn in the Western Paradise. This school teaches the recitation of the Buddha’s name, and total absorption in recitation for maximum benefit and spiritual evolution. The next school, and perhaps the finest and quickest method, stresses intuitive insight into the nature of reality, saying that all words and logic are self-defeating. The emphasis in this school is on the practice of meditation with strict discipline through which one's Buddha nature can be realized. This, of course, is the Ch'an School which we are all at this monastery engaged in.
I spent some time in the water as a surfer. The ocean offers a very good example of what meditation is, and what the purpose of meditation is. Anyone who has ever paddled on a surfboard, perhaps at the cliffs here, has watched the ocean on a day when there's a wind, from a breeze even up to a great gale, and has noticed that the water is a bit choppy. Now that chop could be likened to false thoughts, which hamper one's mind. Perhaps one is engaged in shaving, and thinking perhaps of driving to the market and getting some food, cuts oneself, or becomes engaged in false thinking of various kinds and hacks one's head up quite badly doing a very simple thing like shaving it. This is because false thoughts are obstructing one's absorption in the action that he is engaged in. So false thoughts are indeed a great hindrance, and one, which must be overcome.
But now the question is, and the problem is, how can one overcome these false thoughts? Well, the idea is, as the ocean presents the ideal example, to bring about one great wave in the mind. Anybody who has paddled out on a surfboard on the north shore of Hawaii when it's twenty feet and crystal clear and the sun is shining, bounces along on a surfboard until a great big wave comes from the outside. He notices as he paddles up the face things are already leveling off, and when he gets over the crest and onto the other side of the wave, behold, the water is crystal smooth and he can see his original face quite clearly before him, reflected in the golden sunlight with the coral reefs as a beautiful backdrop. The idea of meditation is to absorb oneself in one thought: "Who is being mindful of the Buddha?" Make this thought big enough to swallow up all the small thoughts in the mind so you can be totally absorbed in whatever action you are engaged in.
The last aspect of Buddhism I will discuss is Tibetan Buddhism. This is also called Tantric Buddhism or Lamaism. The practice consists of prayers, recitations, special techniques, such as mudras and various other symbols for the practice of meditation. The highest teaching is a doctrine called Mahamudra, which is known as the yoga of the great symbol, but more correctly, the great attitude, which is basically what one and all of us must develop in order to obtain an insight into the nature of our being, the correct attitude toward everything that we do every moment of our lives.
BHIKSU HENG YO
Originally I was going to tell a funny story, but the organizing committee met and sent down a directive which said that that wouldn't be in order for this evening. Always complying with the organizing committee, I decided to change what I was originally going to say and talk about our trip.
Our pilgrimage. Why? I don't know. There are many reasons why one would undertake a vow such as Heng Ju's. Some of them can't be spoken about because they are out of the range of word or thought, so, of course, I won't speak about those. Then, of course, there are the other reasons that can be spoken about, but rather than speak about a whole lot of different ones, I'll just speak about one reason for making such a vow. And this is that in the Buddhadharma there is what is called cultivation. One cultivates the ground. Since the ground is just the mind, one can cultivate anywhere. Plant a seed of Bodhi and then reap enlightenment. The idea is, that without doing the work of cultivation, you remain in a state of having one ear of corn under each arm and every time you reach out to pick another ear, you drop one. That is, you are still subject to the suffering of the wheel of birth and death. The idea is to do something about it.
|This is the small hut in back of Gold Mountain where Bhiksu Heng Yo lived for several years before he began his trip north protecting Bhiksu Heng Ju. The hut, big enough for one person to sit up in, is where Hneg Yo spent his nights and days absorbed in Dhyana meditation.|
It is said that the Buddhadharma is a vast sea and the way to gain entry is through faith. That's the first step. One gives rise to faith and then acts on this faith, makes a vow to practice, and then actually cultivates. There are many many ways of cultivation, many Dharma doors spoken by the Buddha, for the different propensities of living beings, their likes and dislikes. All people cultivate in different ways, and the way that Heng Ju chose is to bow every third step up the coast for the sake of world peace. We have had a lot of different experiences on this trip. Rather than enumerate all of them, I'll just talk about one little incident. We were bowing through a small town in Oregon and it was getting on towards evening as we passed by the bar. Some of the people were really getting it on, so to speak. They were yelling, screaming, bringing their friends out to gape, hopping around, jumping, and getting pretty excited. I passed through first without much of a problem, but Heng Ju was subject to a lot of name calling and other dharmas such as these. He was called a bald headed Jesus. In any case he maintained his single mindedness and was able to concentrate on the work. It was as if he wasn’t there, and their insults just passed right through him and went back to where they started from. But rather than talk about these things second hand, I will let you hear it from the source.
BHIKSU HENG JU
Many of you are here for the first time tonight and I know it takes a lot of courage to come to Gold Mountain for the first time. You may have heard from your friends, or you may have read in Vajra Bodhi Sea about the bitter and fierce ascetic practices that are cultivated here. Then you probably spent a long time mustering up enough guts to come.
Your fears do in fact have some basis in reality. You have every reason to be afraid. We won't even talk about the monks here who cultivate; we'll just talk about some of the novices. Some of them approach nine feet tall, eat lunch out of giant wooden bowls, and think of nothing but beating and maiming people. You may have noticed these wooden clubs. They are used here every day. This is the only day of the year that we Call it all off so that you people can come in and enjoy yourselves. This is the only day of the year that we have heavenly gandharvas who make musical offerings to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions. So all of you should relax tonight; we've called off all the suffering for one day. Tomorrow, however, it will start up all over again, and anybody who is not afraid of a little suffering is certainly welcome. I myself am getting out of here.
We are here to talk about birth. Since I’ll be speaking so late tonight, there will be no chance to develop anything new and refreshing to say about the Buddha’s birth, so I will talk about how dragons are born. It all relates because the Buddha was, in fact, the king of dragons.
Dragons are spiritual beings; they can be either big or small, visible or invisible, and they are known for their psychic powers and spiritual penetrations. They can read your mind, they can see the past, they can see the future.
Dragons weren't always dragons. Once they were just ordinary little fishes in the sea. How did they get to be dragons? At a certain time of their lives, those fish who want to be dragons come into the Pacific Ocean from all over the world and swim until they get to the eastern shores of China. Then from there they swim inland up the Yangtse river for hundreds of miles, and it is a long and arduous journey.
are many different kinds of fish, and some of them don't even know what they are
doing. There comes a time when they leave their friends, leave their families,
and follow a calling, which is in their heart. They leave it all behind and they
go up the river. They keep on going until they have left it all behind and they
have nothing to see in front of them but river, and they just keep swimming.
It's the same way for us living beings. If at some time in our life we find out about Buddhism, if we can leave it all behind, if we can shave our heads, leave everything, pick up the robe and bowl of Sakyamuni Buddha and fearlessly leap over the dragon gate, then we have definitely and assuredly entered into the realm of the Buddhas, sages, and patriarchs. And it is for sure that we ourselves will become great dragon kings.
|Two of Gold Mountain’s senior bhiksus bathe the image of the newborn Buddha. Bhiksu Heng Shou, left, recently returned from a year and one-half sojourn in Hong Kong where he assisted in the translation work, and Bhiksu Heng Ching, right, currently resides at Tz’u Hsing Monastery on Lantau Island near Hong Kong where he is translating the Avatamsaka Sutra.|