Mr. Matthew Lee, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Culture Office in San Francisco, visited the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) on Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday. He joined the hundreds of participants in the Bathing the Buddha ceremony and indicated that there was definite merit in holding this Dharma assembly to purify people’s minds at this time of anxiety about war and disease.
On Sunday, May 4, Director General Lee and his entourage arrived at CTTB around 9 o’clock in the morning. The place was clean and cool due to the breeze and drizzling rain. The Abbot, Dharma Master Heng Lyu, accompanied Director General Lee to bathe the Buddha under the big awning behind the Buddha Hall where seven Buddha statuettes were placed for people to bathe. After bathing the Buddha, Director General Lee attended the meal offering ceremony and had a vegetarian lunch with the assembly. He then gave a brief talk. (Please see
page 36 in this issue for his talk.)
Professor Clare Fischer with the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) gave a talk after Director General Lee. As an anthropologist, she has done research into the religion and culture of Bali. She has taken three generations of students to CTTB for the study of comparative religions. She has also team-taught at GTU with Dr. Akpinar, the Chancellor of Dharma Realm Buddhist University. Prof. Fischer said that she was happy to attend this ceremony: “We’ve kept in mind how important the message is: the birth and the rebirth of all of us at the time when so many of us have considerable anxiety about the state of the world and about the state of our spiritual well-being.”
Another GTU faculty with the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Prof. Patricia Amy Kanaya, represented the Jodo Shinshu tradition. She stated that to celebrate Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday, we need to remember one of his most valuable and basic teachings, that of interdependence. Prof. Kanaya is Japanese-Canadian. She pointed out that many of GTU’s faculty and students represent various religious traditions, but they’ve come together to learn about each other’s traditions and understand each other in order to be able to create a better place for people in this world. Through understanding and learning, they realize that they are all together in oneness.
Dharma Master Heng Sure then shared with the assembly his own experience that any resolutions, vows, promises one makes sincerely on Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday will have a very wonderful effect on our life. He also mentioned that the founder of CTTB, the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, was a hard-working Buddhist advocate and a lifelong educator who started schools wherever he went. At sixteen,he established a free school in his hometown. Dharma Master Sure recalled that the Venerable Master once said that if education thrives in this country, then the Buddhadharma will thrive; if education is weakened in this country, then the Buddhadharma has no hope.
Dharma Master Sure has been working hard in coordinating dialogue among religions. He has found that in many religions, people are asking, “Where are the young people?” In contrast to most college students who don’t go to their religious gatherings, Dharma Realm Buddhist Youth (DRBY), which is organized partly by the alumni of Developing Virtue Secondary School, held a conference on spirituality in April at Gold Sage Monastery, San Jose. It was attended by more than 120 young people. DRBY is holding a Shurangama Sutra retreat at CTTB this summer in two four-week sessions. Dharma Master Sure was happy to see that young people are studying the principles of Buddhadharma, which apply to everyday life.
Finally, the Abbot of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, Dharma Master Heng Lyu, explained that the reason we bathe the baby Buddha with seven kinds of aromatic water is to remind ourselves that we all have the original pure nature, which is neither more in sages nor less in ordinary people. Shakyamuni Buddha manifested in the world not to have people bathe his statue or praise him, but to teach everyone the true meaning of bathing the Buddha, which is to understand our pure inherent nature.