Venerable Master, all Dharma Masters, all fellow cultivators:
We plan to discuss the Precepts for the Deceased tonight. This discussion will be brief, and we can discuss more when there is time in the future.
You should have a book on the ceremonial rites with a blue cover before you. This book is somewhat special. For the first time, there in one book are three different languages: Chinese, English, and Vietnamese. The little Shramaneras (novice monks) at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) spent who knows how many days, occasionally going without sleep, to bind these booklets, of which we printed several hundred. The text has been edited five or six times, adding the two other languages. You should therefore know that this is hard to come by.
Taking the Precepts for the Deceased is an act of great filial respect. People who recite the Earth Store Sutra ought to know this. We're here in the yang (positive energy) realm. Before people leave the yang realm and are in an in-between stage between this life and the next rebirth, their intermediate body could be at a number of places, all of which are called the underworld, the realm of King Yama. Sometimes King Yama does not immediately determine a soul's next rebirth, and so it remains in the underworld.
Living beings who have died as a result of an accident, a war, a plane crash, a shipwreck, being eaten by animals, or taking the wrong medicine, may not have had people develop merit and virtue for them. If we in the yang realm wish to create some merit and virtue for those who have died in these ways, we may cultivate this Dharma and dedicate our merit to them. This is the significance of the Precepts for the Deceased. We have to endure some discomfort, kneeling and bowing, in order to receive the Precepts for the Deceased, but the blessings and merit that we can dedicate to the deceased are immense. Receiving the Precepts for the Deceased is an act of filial respect, as well as compassion.
The very first time that the Venerable Master transmitted the Precepts for the Deceased at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) was more than twenty years ago. The Venerable Master first selected a Dharma name for the recipients. In all the transmissions he gave, whether in Taiwan, Malaysia, or the United States, he used the Chinese character "Fa" (Dharma) as the first character in the two-character Dharma-name, and this has become a tradition. All the souls that apply to receive the precepts during both transmissions of the Precepts for the Deceased this week will be named "Fa Ying" (Dharma Response). Each time I call out, "Say your Dharma name," you should respond, "Fa Ying and the other souls."
Please turn to the first page, and read along as you listen to me explain. Ceremonial rites are a tradition. Whoever has bowed to repent, taken refuge, or received the Five Precepts will recognize this ceremony. We first invite the Master. Once the Master arrives, we recite the Great Compassion Mantra, which is equivalent to purifying the boundaries. We then bow to the Buddhas, inviting Shakyamuni Buddha and all the Tathagathas here. We then invite the souls here.
A Dharma Master will tell you which board and which number your plaque is. This set up allows a large number of people to find their plaques and return to the places in an orderly fashion without wasting a lot of time. Please remember your number. Each person carries the plaque with both hands back to his or her spot and kneels. The Dharma Master then transmits the Precepts for the Deceased to the soul that you represent that day. The Precept Master then provide some instructions, explaining how one acquires the precept substance and realizes the merit of these precepts that are replete in one's inherent nature.
The next part is the repentance. Repentance is very important. Most people probably wouldn't even think of some of the offenses that we repent of, such as: killing our parents, shedding the Bud- dhas' blood, defiling the Sangharama, ruining others' Brahma conduct, burning and destroying temples and monasteries, stealing the property of the Sangha, harboring wrong views, denying cause and effect, drawing near unwholesome friends, disobeying good teachers, committing offenses ourselves and teaching others to do the same, and enjoying seeing and hearing such doings. You might say, "I haven't done any of these things. Why should I repent? Wouldn't that be lying?" That's not the intention here. The repen- tance is not limited to this lifetime. "I'm only twenty or thirty; I haven't had time to shed the Buddha's blood," you might protest. We don't want you to make up a story, saying, "Well, I shed the Buddha's blood when I knocked the Guanyin Bodhisattva statue over and the shoulder was damaged." If you did that, you can repent and vow not to do it again. But that's not the point here. You are representing the soul of a deceased person, such as your mother. Did your mother ever say to her mother (your grandmother), "I wish you were dead!" If she said that even once, she planted the seed for killing her parents. You must repent and endure discomfort on her behalf. Do you understand? These offenses have been committed in life after life. We can repent according to the Fourth Vow of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's Ten Great Vows. He said, "If the offenses of one person had shape and form, space would not be able to contain them." Even one person's offenses would be too many! The repentance text is very deep and thorough. Everyone ought to repent most sincerely and wholeheartedly to create merit and virtue for the soul represented by the plaque that you carry.
Next, the Dharma Masters will transmit the Four Indestructible Kinds of Faith. What are they? They are faith in the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha, and the Precepts. No one lacks any of these. The Buddha is enlightenment. The Dharma is the set of rules and meritorious virtue, the Sangha signifies harmony, and the precepts provide liberation. The Dharma Master then says, "From today forward, you souls must believe that your mind is the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha and the precepts. Through endless time into the future, you must never forget that.
To be continued