Dharma Master Sure led a discussion at 7:00 p.m. with 60-70 members of the Buddhist Youth Association. A youth asked, “How can we influence and transform others? DM Sure told a story of his own experiences. His mother was very confused and puzzled when he first became a monk – she thought that her son had been deceived into doing so or had some other problem. However, after thirty years, she felt proud of her son, a Buddhist monk, because he could offer Buddhist wisdom when people had problems and requested advice from him.
The delegation’s lectures focused on education, repentance, vegetarianism, fililial respect, precepts, and the teachings of the Venerable Master. Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, and laypeople took turns speaking Dharma and a time was reserved for laypeople to ask questions of the Dharma Masters.
DM Liang told an extremely moving story of a time when the Venerable Master was lecturing on the
Avatamsaka (Flower Adornment) Sutra at CTTB. There was a sudden power outage and the Buddha Hall was plunged into darkness. To her astonishment, though it was impossible to still read the sutra texts, the Venerable Master continued to lecture on the sutra, as he had the ability to recite the text without looking at the book. The disciples were strongly moved to believe that the Venerable Master was one with the Avatamsaka Sutra and his state was the Avatamsaka state.
The Eight Lay Vegetarian Precepts were transmitted in Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung, inspiring great joy in the preceptees. Many children also took the precepts, allowing them to experience the pure lifestyle of monastics while simultaneously planting good roots for future lives.
On February 23rd, 25 delegates went to visit the Hualien Detention Center and Hualien Minimum Security Prison. The delegation visited Amitabha Monastery in Hualien in the evening to speak the Dharma for disciples. The next day (the 24th), the delegation went to teach the Dharma in the Hualien Prison. While passing through six heavy and bolted doors, delegation members were filled with sorrow as they suddenly realized the preciousness of freedom. As the sixth and final door was opened, the resonant and clear sound of Earth Store Bodhisattva’s holy name could be heard, bringing many delegates to tears. They had never expected to hear the sublime, holy name coming from behind iron bars.
The delegation visited the Dharma Realm Sagely Monastery in scenic Liugui (Six Turtles) in the morning of March 2nd. Dharma Realm Monastery was donated by Wang Jin-ping, President of the Legislative Yuan [a legislative body similar to Congress]. The property of Dharma Realm Monastery is not very big, but the Association was able to purchase an adjoining piece of land and the current manager, DM Ju, is preparing to buy another bordering parcel. In the future, it may be possible to build a new monastery for everybody to cultivate together. This is a goal for every disciple in Taiwan to work together towards.
The Trip to Hong Kong
Though Hong Kong is a tiny place, the warm sincerity of the faithful there is not small. Bhikshu Heng Xing Shr and Bhikshuni Heng Gwei Shr led a party of elderly laypeople to welcome the delegation members as they stepped off the plane. Seeing the old disciples of Shrfu was just like seeing the past great work of the Venerable Master in Hong Kong.
Real estate is as precious as gold in Hong Kong, and the Buddhist Lecture Hall is located on the 11th floor of a prime region. From its high vantage point one can see the race tracks. The elevator to the Hall can hold only six passengers, so most people take the stairs, which are so narrow that two people cannot walk side by side. I had often heard of the small size of the Buddhist Lecture Hall but had no true idea of its size until I saw it for myself. When it was time for meals, the Buddha Hall itself was transformed into a dining hall for Sangha members while laypeople ate in the temporary dining hall on the roof.
The Bhikshus lead the assembly in bowing the Flower Adornment Repentance in the afternoon of March 3rd, after which six monks took turn speaking the Dharma.
In the evening, DM Sure spoke at the “Guanghua News and Cultural Center” on the topic of “Ancient Wisdom, Modern Thinking,” to an audience of over three hundred. On the 4th, DM Sure was invited by the University of Hong Kong to lecture on “The Two Journals of the Western Regions.” The lecture introduced the travels of the Great Master Xuan Zhuang, who traveled to India, studied at Nalanda University, brought Sanskrit texts of the Buddhist sutras back to China, translated them into Chinese, and then wrote the “Journal of the Western Frontiers.” However, a second “Journal of the Western Frontiers” was written when the Venerable Master Hua brought the Chinese sutras to the West and had them translated into English and other languages, thereby transmitting the Buddhadharma from the East to the West, marking the beginning of Mahayana Buddhism in U.S.
On the 4th and 5th, an Avatamsaka Assembly was held at the Buddhist Wong Fung Ling College Hall. The Avatamsaka Repentance was conducted in the morning, and there was a recitation of the “Universal Worthy’s Conduct and Vows Chapter” as well as a Dharma lecture in the afternoon. A ceremony for transmitting the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts was held at the Buddhist Lecture Hall in the afternoon of the 5th and the participants filled up the Lecture Hall.
On the evening of the 5th, a symposium on the Venerable Master’s “Six Great Principles” was held at the Leithton Hill Community Hall with both monks and nuns lecturing on the Dharma. On the morning of March 6th, the delegation went on two buses to Cixing Monastery on Lantau Island to get a taste of a different form of cultivation – Chan meditation. After two weeks of strenuous and exhausting activities, delegation members were finally able to rest and purify their bodies and minds in a temporary retreat from the worldly life.
The delegation arrived at Cixing Monastery and began their ascent of the mountain on a small concrete path. Even though the hike was only an hour and everyone was carrying light luggage, by the time we reached the top, everyone was wheezing, sweating, and out of breath. This made us think about the hardships the Venerable Master had to endure years ago when he would carry sixty pounds of food and supplies up the mountain.
Cixing Monastery is situated on a mountaintop with an awesome and majestic view, with geographical features resembling a green dragon and white tiger surrounding it. It is a good place to cultivate, and one can truly feel the spiritual energy of Nature here.
The Venerable Master personally constructed a dragon statue out of cement on the monastery’s right, and it would be a pity to visit Cixing Monastery without getting to see it. There are now stairs so people may walk up to the dragon in a matter of minutes. DM Heng Xing stated that there was a stone underneath the dragon where one could meditate, but due to the wet weather and the chances of slipping, no one went down to try.
After the meal the Chan session began, with the men sitting in the Hall of Great Heroes and the women in the Hall of the Three Western Sages. There were nine periods of meditation until 9 a.m. the next day, with three lectures on sitting in Chan in between.
When it came time to leave for Malaysia, 12 Sangha members and 24 laypeople joined the delegation, making it even larger.
The Trip to Malaysia
Dharma Realm Guan Yin Monastery was previously named “Kun Yam Thong” (Guan Yin Hall) and “Deng Bi An” (Ascending the Other Shore). It has a long history dating back to 125 years ago when it was a small and decrepit shrine where folk religion and a mixture of Buddhism and Taoism were practiced. At present it has been completely rebuilt and transformed into an imposing, grand, and adorned temple in the Chinese architectural tradition. The great statue of the Guan Yin Bodhisattva with a Thousand Hands and Eyes, the three Buddha statues in the main hall, as well as the three Sages of the West on the upper floors inspire all those who come to bow in respect. The statue of the Venerable Master, carved in fine detail, looks so alive that many of the faithful whisper softly to the Venerable Master here. All of the volunteers wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words “an ancient temple shows its glory,” an apt description of the temple’s history.
At 8:00 a.m. on March 9th, a series of Dharma assemblies celebrating the completion of Dharma Realm Guan Yin Monastery began with the eight-day Jeweled Repentance of Emperor Liang. DMs Heng Ju, Jin Fan, and Jin Pei led the assembly, causing the Dharma assembly to be filled with positive energy.
As many applicants wished to take the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts, ceremonies were held for those purposes on the 10th and 15th with over three hundred people attending each time. The ceremonies for the transmission of the Precepts for the Deceased, held on the 10th and 14th, were fully booked – as a result, another session was held on the evening of the 15th and approximately 1,600 souls received the precepts. This demonstrates the tradition of remembering one’s ancestors observed by the Chinese community. The Jeweled Repentance of Emperor Liang also concluded on the 16th, and the Ceremony of Great Meng Shan was performed in the evening to benefit all living beings in the realms of darkness.
Before noon on the 12th, a formal lecture was given. The ceremonies were solemn and adorned. DM Liang recited in a special style of chanting: “The multitude of dragons and elephants in Buddhism should contemplate the foremost truth. Carefully observe the Dharma of the Dharma King: The Dharma of the Dharma King is thus,” which purified the resolve of disciples seeking the Dharma.
As the Dharma assemblies and various activities were tightly packed into the schedule, there was much less time for the delegation to speak the Dharma. On the evening of the 12th a lecture on education was given, and DM Jin Fan displayed a slideshow to introduce the environment, ideals, and activities of the Boys and Girls Schools. He also told the stories of several Malaysian students and teachers at the schools. DM Je described the good conduct and virtue of students who have been influenced by the curriculum to show the educational outcomes of our schools, and Guo Fu Lau, a Malaysian parent of two students at CTTB testified to the results of our education system.
No Dharma assemblies were held on the 17th, and some monks and nuns followed DM Jang to visit other branch monasteries – Tze Yun Tong (Purple Cloud Cave), Dharma Affinities Monastery, Cloud-Heaven Cave, and the Book Distribution Centers. Tze Yun Tong is the most active of all DRBA monasteries in Malaysia though it is quite old and dilapidated. There are always many Dharma assemblies for people to attend and a kindergarten, a Sunday school, and a Shurangama study group. Due to space limitations, there are only 40 students in the kindergarten class but 300-400 students attending the Sunday school. Volunteer teachers teach them the Standards for Students and various Buddhist subjects. Given the difficult conditions, such amazing accomplishments are a testament to the Malaysian Dharma Masters’ hard work and dedication to the Dharma and the Master’s teachings.
With the 18th came the pinnacle of the celebrations – the Grand Opening. The assembly began sincerely reciting the holy name of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva at 7:00 a.m. At 8:15, Dharma Masters Heng Sure, Wen Jian, Wen Tong, Heng Lai, and Heng Jang, along with Deputy Minister of Home/International Affairs Dato Tan Chai Ho cut the ribbon. The crowd applauded loudly as the embroidered ball hit the ground.
The Ceremony for Opening the Light for the Buddha Images began soon after. DM Sure first opened the light for the main hall’s statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. Next, DM Wen Jian of Penang’s Hong Fu Monastery opened the light for the image of Medicine Master Buddha, and DM Wen Tong of the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery opened the light for the image of Amitabha Buddha. Finally, all three Dharma Masters went upstairs and opened the light for the Three Sages of the West. After that, the Dharma Masters opened the light for the Medicine Master Buddha in the Long Life Hall, the Amitabha Buddha in the Rebirth Hall, and the Maitreya Buddha in the Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings. Lastly, they sprinkled sweet dew water on the images of the Four Heavenly Kings, thus completing the rituals. Volunteers’ responsible for guests counted approximately 7,000 people participating in the ceremony. The assembly viewed the entire ceremony via closed-circuit TV.
Before the Meal Offering, a ceremony for speaking the Dharma was held. Twenty-two special donors first requested the Dharma Master to speak the Dharma. The Dharma Master was preceded by four monks respectively holding a white whisk, a scepter, a tin staff, and a bowl, and followed by an attendant holding a sitting cloth. After lighting incense, the Dharma Master took his seat. The cantor, DM Yang, sang, “The multitude of dragons and elephants in Buddhism should contemplate the foremost truth,” after which the Master spoke the Dharma for the donors. The assembly had never experienced such an adorned ceremony to request the Dharma before.
The reciting of the “Universal Door Chapter” began at one o’clock in the afternoon, and with that, the celebrations were over. All the Malaysian laypeople were very happy and proud to have a new and adorned monastery; the delegation members, too, were delighted at this first step for Malaysia.
A request for 300 volunteer workers was put out, but unexpectedly, a thousand people answered the call. David Yin, a layperson from CTTB did a small poll of the young volunteers, asking them about their reasons for volunteering at the temple. The replies were very interesting – the most common answer was that they were “just following their parents”, followed by “for the food” and “for making friends.”
A three-day long “Shurangama Mantra Assembly” with nonstop recitation of the mantra from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. began on the 19th. At that time, the delegation split up into four buses for a five-hour trip to Penang in the north.
DRBA’s branch in Penang is a five-story building donated to DRBA by a layperson. It is currently staffed by some nuns, but due to the small size of the building, closed-circuit TVs have been installed on every floor to permit people on every floor to participate in the Dharma assembly. A talk was given in the afternoon to create Dharma affinities with the local laity, and a slideshow was played introducing education and the schools at CTTB.
That evening, at the invitation of the Malaysian Buddhist Association, DM Sure gave a talk on “Insights in Studying the Sixth Patriarch Sutra.”
The next day, the entire delegation went to visit the largest monastery in Malaysia – the 114-year-old Temple of Supreme Bliss. Its founder was the Elder Miaolian, who had shaved Master Hsu Yun’s head, therefore making it a subsidiary monastery of Yongquan (Bubbling Spring) Monastery in Fujian’s Drum Mountain. The Elder Master Hsu Yun himself had been to the Temple of Supreme Bliss to lecture on the Vajra Sutra.
In the evening, the delegation returned to Kuala Lumpur and DM Sure gave a last lecture with a slideshow, officially ending the delegation. The next day, the delegation members went to the airport and from there, returned to their specific positions and tasks, walking further on the Path of Bodhi.
The 2006 DRBA Asia delegation spent a month busily traveling among the branch monasteries in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Even though it was a hard work, it has definitely brought the fourfold disciples of DRBA together and uplifted the spirits of the Sangha and laity from all branches in an incalculable way. How can such little toil be compared to the self-sacrificing spirit of “shedding blood and sweat without stopping to rest” with which the Venerable Master gave his whole life to Buddhism?