講法 Speaking Dharma
Learning play the Dharma instruments
On July26 - 31,2001, a Dharma delegation from Malaysia's Tze Yun Tung Temple visited the Buddhist Books Distribution Centre (BBDC) in Singapore. The group comprised three Dharma Masters (Heng Sheng, Heng Rong and Heng Ding) and seven laywomen. The purpose of the Dharma Masters' visit was to teach BBDC members the basic method of Chan meditation and the usage of various Dharma instruments, as well as to give Dharma lectures. Two of the laywomen, Upasika Deng and Upasika Yuet Li, also gave vegetarian cooking lessons.
In fact, BBDC members had always cherished the hope that some day, the Dharma Masters from Malaysia would come to Singapore to spread the Dharma. If the Malaysian Sangha could kindly visit BBDC regularly, say once every three months, it would benefit their cultivation tremendously.
Dharma Master Heng Sheng gave basic Chan meditation lessons for five consecutive nights. Each lesson started with half an hour of verbal instruction followed by an hour of sitting meditation and half an hour of questions and answers. The turnout each night was very encouraging. Although many members had great difficulty sitting in the full-lotus position, they bravely struggled on and endured the pain.
During the five days, the three Dharma Masters conducted the Great Compassion Repentance ceremony, an Earth Store Sutra chanting session and the Universal Worthy Bowing Repentance. They also taught some members how to use the Dharma instruments so that they could take turns to lead the assembly
At the same time, many members had difficulty in cooking vegetarian food and were in desperate need of good instructors. Everyone was amazed that Upasika Deng and Upasika Yuet Li could turn out such gourmet dishes and heaped praises on both of them. The cooking lessons also served to impress upon the non- vegetarian members the benefits of adopting a vegetarian diet for health and spiritual reasons.
The following are some of the questions and answers from the 5-day Dharma session:
Q: After sitting in meditation for about an hour, I felt very hot. However, I understand that there are others who felt cold. I wonder why?
A:Whether you feel cold or hot, these are states that arise during meditation. You felt hot because of the circulation of the qi and blood. Sometimes it can be as hot as an oven. When you have achieved some skill in your meditation, you can even wear thin clothes and meditate in the cold and enter samadhi, just like Shakyamuni Buddha. Other people have a weak constitution and the longer they sit, the colder they become, especially during winter. However, they must still bear it. There was a layperson who related that even though he had to work 18 hours everyday, he could still regain his strength and energy by meditating for 2 hours.
Q: Can we leave our children alone at home when we go to the Way-place to cultivate?
A: You should always strike a balance between your cultivation and your family. You must not neglect your family, especially your children.... If you want to go to the Way-place to cultivate, arrange for someone to look after your children and to do the housework...
Q: As Buddhists, we cannot drink wine or liquor. If we still have some bottles of expensive wine and liquor at home, can we give them away to other people?
A : No. After you have taken the precepts, you cannot give wine or liquor to anyone regardless of whether they are Buddhists or not.
Q: I am a vegetarian but my children are not. In this case, can I buy meat or fish and prepare food for them?
A: As a vegetarian, it is best not to handle those types of food....
Q: I have two dogs at home and every time, after taking them out for walks, they come back with bugs and ants clinging to their fur. I try to get rid of them by plucking them out. However, inadvertently, I kill some by so doing. Am I committing any offenses?
A: As you didn't kill them intentionally, it's all right. Just be careful in the future. In fact, Buddhists are advised not to keep any fish, birds or animals as pets. It is best not to create affinities with them.
Q: I only practice eating vegetarian food on the 1st. and 15th of every lunar month. I also attend many social functions. Sometimes, such occasions fall on those two days. Can I make up for it the next day?
A: Under such circumstances, it is best not to attend any functions on those two days, or you may eat first before attending. When vegetarians are required to attend social functions and there is no way to avoid them, then it is a great test. However, if you can maintain your vegetarian observance, it shows that you have samadhi power and things will definitely work out favorably (Dharma Master Heng Ding recounted that when she was working as a layperson, she had to attend company functions. As non-vegetarian food was served during the functions, she did not know what to do. Then unexpectedly, her company made provision for her vegetarian diet.)
When I was traveling on a plane, the airline forgot to provide for my vegetarian meal. However, they specially prepared a simple vegetable dish for me so that I wouldn't be hungry. If we stay in a hotel, we can request the cook to clean the pots and prepare simple vegetable fare for us. As it is not convenient to have vegetarian food outside, it is all right as long as your food is not mixed up with non-vegetarian food. The most important thing is that you must firmly maintain your resolve to be a vegetarian.
Q: In the Eighty-eight Buddhas Repentance, what does mlecchas mean?
A: Mlecchas is a Sanskrit term. It refers to those with evil views.
Q: Can a person recite Sutras or mantras when he is not a vegetarian?
A: If you are not a vegetarian, you can still recite Sutras or mantras. However, if you are sincerely maintaining a vegetarian diet, then the karma of your body, mouth and mind will be purified.
Q: What is the meaning of 'letting go'? Does it mean we give up our families and Speaking Dharma children and cease to care about them?
A: It means to let go of the myriad conditions. Leaving the home life is to leave everything behind. I remember when I was in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, there was a layman from Taiwan who liked to make offerings to the Triple Jewel. One time, he brought a few Buddhist friends deep into the mountains to make offerings to an old Bhikshu. He asked, "How can one see through things and let go?" The old Dharma Master replied, "I have left home for about 20 or 30 years and I am still learning how to see through things and let them go." From this, I learnt that it is not easy to see through and let go. Our attachments and bad habits are very difficult to give up and overcome. I remember the Venerable Master once said, "All of you, give your bad tempers to me. I am willing to accept them." But can we give them up?
The BBDC members were very grateful and will cherish fond memories of the occasion. Special regards and thanks to the two wonderful cooks too!
On the last day, the Dharma delegation visited the two biggest Buddhist temples in Singapore: Shuanglin Monastery and Bright Hill Temple and had a vegetarian lunch at Upasika Rosaline Kang's home. The Dharma Masters performed the meal offering and after lunch, they spoke Dharma for the members.