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The Winter Buddha Recitation Session at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

陳心平 文 By Xinping Chen

一九九五年底就六年初,萬佛聖城的冬季雙週佛七,在十二月二十 四日展開,萬佛聖城方丈恆律法師,特別邀請宣公上人的資深弟子恆佐法師,自加拿大卡格利華嚴聖寺返回聖城主七。

這次佛七時間表與前兩年不同,改採聖城早期的佛七方式,並在每 晚聽經一小時後,由上人的多位資深弟子與大家分享早年聖城打佛七的經驗。這次冬季佛七,採取上人當年制訂的時間表,早晚課與午供如常;上、下午各誦一部 《阿彌陀經》。其餘時間則繞佛、坐念、靜坐默念各三十分鐘,不斷輪流。自清晨四時至晚間大迴向結束(約十時左右),中間只有午齋後休息三十分鐘。若有個別 狀況必須暫時離開佛堂,則利用繞念與坐念時段進出。這次佛七也沒有安排大眾共同出坡時間,一切工作由護七者擔任。

佛七的第一天聽經時間,因逢週日,慣例由恆實法師主講。這晚恰 逢耶誕夜,恆實法師講過「華嚴經迴向品」後,說了一則「耶誕故事」。

二十多年前,恆實法師還是個年輕的研究所學生,尚未出家。有一 年,趁著耶誕假期,前往金山寺打七,隨身還帶著從七歲起使用的耶誕襪。

耶誕夜,他將這只襪子掛在房門口,心想上人或其他道友會幫他 「處理」,也許丟掉,也許剪碎……。第二天早上醒來,打開房門,很驚訝地發現耶誕襪裡裝滿了禮物:念珠,小本經書,還有包子等食物。更驚訝的是:走到佛 殿,上人滿臉笑意對他說:「Merry Christmas!」恆實法師說,當時他深深覺得佛教包容力量之大,令他感動不已。日後出家修行,這則耶誕故事也是一股助力。

這次佛七法主恆佐法師,在多次開示時,鼓勵大家放鬆身心念佛, 好好預備往生資糧,但也不要太緊張。他指出,早年聖城冬季打七時,大家都非常珍惜這難得的機會,早早就預先將事情安排妥當,專心打七。平常要忙著教書,還 有許多道場上的雜物要做。打七期間,萬事放下,真是像渡假一樣。

恆佐法師還將打七譬喻成「吃榴槤」,開頭很辛苦,以後漸入佳 境,滋味無窮。

恆正法師惋惜許多參加佛七的人,經常進出佛殿,沒有專心打七。 她說早年打七時,很多人根本不離開佛殿,乃至師父有一天特地到佛殿,勸某些人該去洗個澡。她苦口婆心勸大家拿出勇猛心,好好念佛,即使不能得到「念佛三 昧」,她保證至少也會嚐到打佛七的滋味。

The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) conducted a two-week session for the recitation of Amitabha Buddha’s name beginning on December 24, 1995. Dharma Master Heng Lyu, the Abbot of CTTB, invited Dharma Master Heng Tso, one of the Venerable Master’s senior disciples currently based at the Avatamsaka Sagely Monastery in Calgary, Canada, to come to CTTB to host the session.

This year, the session differed from those of the past two years in that it reverted to the traditional schedule used in earlier years at CTTB. Moreover, after an hour of Sutra lecture in the evenings, there would be an hour during which some early disciples of the Venerable Master shared their recollections of sessions they attended in the early days. The schedule included the usual morning and evening recitations and noon meal offering, recitation of the Amitabha Sutra once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and non-stop recitation of Amitabha Buddha’s name during the rest of the day, alternating in thirty-minute periods of circumambulating, sitting, and silent recitation.

Each day the schedule started at four in the morning and ended with the Great Transference of Merit at around ten o’clock at night, with a half-hour break after lunch. People were allowed to leave the Buddha hall only during the circumambulating or sitting periods. All of the regular community work was done by “session-supporters” so that others could participate in the session full-time.

Dharma Master Heng Sure lectured on the first evening of the session, which also happened to be Christmas Eve. After lecturing on the “Transferences” chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra, he told of how he took part in a session at Gold Mountain Monastery during Christmas vacation over twenty years ago, when he was a young graduate student (before he became a monk). He had brought with him a Christmas sock that he’d used since he was seven. On Christmas Eve of that year, he hung the sock outside his door, thinking that perhaps the Venerable Master or his fellow cultivators would help him get rid of it by throwing it away or cutting it up. The next morning, he woke up and discovered to his surprise upon opening the door that his Christmas sock was filled with presents--recitation beads, pocketsize Sutras, dumplings, and other goodies. He was even more astonished when he went to the Buddha hall and the Venerable Master greeted him with a broad smile and a “Merry Christmas.” The all-encompassing spirit of Buddhism left him deeply touched, and the memory of that Christmas Eve has been a source of strength to him in his cultivation ever since he left the home-life.

During his instructional talks during the session, Dharma Master Tso urged everyone to relax in body and mind and not to be overly intense as they recited the Buddha’s name and gathered the “provisions” for rebirth in the Pure Land. Dharma Master Tso recalled that in earlier years, everyone at the City had always cherished the opportunity to participate in the winter sessions and would make arrangements so that they could take part in and concentrate on the sessions. During the rest of the year, they would be busy teaching or doing other temple work; but during the session, they would put down everything and virtually “take a vacation.” Dharma Master Tso compared taking part in the session to eating durian (a fruit with a peculiar and strong flavor): it’s difficult in the beginning, but gradually one develops a real taste for it.

Dharma Master Heng Cheng regretted that many people went in and out of the Buddha hall during the session and didn’t concentrate. She related that in early years, many people never left the Buddha hall during the entire session: Once the Venerable Master even had to come to the hall and advise some people to go take a bath! She urged everyone to be vigorous and do a good job of reciting the Buddha’s name. Although they might not attain the Buddha-recitation samadhi, they would at least experience what a recitation session was like.


法界佛教總會 Dharma Realm Buddhist Association© Vajra Bodhi Sea