LIANG HUANG JEWELED REPENTANCE CEREMONY

Picture2Liang Huang Jeweled Repentance Ceremony

December 25, 2016 to January 1, 2017 Gratitude Liang Huang Jeweled Repentance Ceremony and 2017 New Year Blessing Ceremony.

(Click on the daily schedule in English or Chinese).

The Liang Huang Jeweled Repentance liturgy was written and compiled in the Southern Liang Dynasty (502-557) in China by the famous Chan Master Zhi Gong at the request of Emperor Wu.

One night, a few months after the death of his Queen Chishi, Emperor Wu heard some rattling noise outside his bedroom as he was getting ready for bed. When he peeked outside his bedroom door, he saw a big boa constrictor staring at him. Surprised and frightened, the Emperor said to the snake, “This is a stately court, a place of majesty and decorum, hardly a place for a snake to hang out.” The snake said, “Your Majesty, I was your queen Chishi. I am now reborn as a snake because in my past life, out of anger, jealousy, self-indulgence, and cruelty, I destroyed many things and harmed many lives. Now I have nothing to eat and no cave to hide. Most painfully, I am constantly being bitten by the many insects living under my scales. It is out of desperation that I come to seek help from your Highness, hoping through the merits of your Majesty, I can escape this vile body.” Then the snake disappeared.

The next day Emperor Wu consulted with Chan Master Zhi Gong. The Master said, “The karma obstacles of the former Queen must be cleansed by repentance and prostrations to the Buddha.” The Emperor then asked the Master to compile a list of Buddhas’ names, and to write the text of repentance based on the sutras. The Master compiled a repentance liturgy that was ten volumes long. The Emperor then followed the liturgy and made repentance on behalf of his queen. One day, as he was getting ready to chant, he smelled a sweet fragrance in the room. When he looked up, he saw a person of grace and beauty standing before him. The person said, “By the grace of your Majesty’s sincere repentance on my behalf, I am now reborn as a heavenly being in the Trayastrimsa Heaven. I come especially to thank your Highness.” Then the person disappeared.

The fascinating story behind the origin of the Liang Huang Jeweled Repentance demonstrates the power of reflecting on our wrongdoings, accepting responsibility for them and repenting with whole-hearted earnestness. The courage to repent and reform immediately brings peace and blessings to us.

Sangha Summer Retreat & Daily Chanting Schedule

The Sangha Summer Retreat originates from the Buddha’s time. In India, the sangha either went to meditate in the mountains, by the rivers, or practiced walking meditation in the forest. During the monsoon season, their alms bowl and clothing were often drenched or washed away by the rain waters. Therefore, the lay disciples pleaded with the Buddha to provide a sheltered place for the sangha; they would then make offerings of food to the sangha so that they could concentrate on their practice and not suffer from the summer rains.

In his compassion, the Buddha set aside a summer retreat period from the 16th day of the 4th lunar month to the 15th day of the 7th lunar month; during that time, lay disciples offered food, clothing, bedding, medicine, and other necessities of daily life to the sangha so that they could peacefully and vigorously cultivate the Way. During those three months, the sangha would not go out except to take care of their parents and teachers, and to carry out the work of the Three Jewels. This period of time is known as the “three-month summer retreat and 90-days of tranquil living.”

Grand Master Wei Chueh, the founding teacher of Chung Tai Chan Monastery, in his compassionate vow to liberate all sentient beings, established the harmonious sangha assembly. He propagates the Buddha Dharma to stabilize and purify the mind of all people. In grateful remembrance of the Grand Master’s compassionate efforts, all lay disciples and sangha members sincerely request the observance of the summer retreat period by holding the Medicine Buddha Gratitude Ceremony at all the branch meditation centers of Chung Tai.

At Buddha Gate, from May 14 to August 27, we invite all friends and disciples to join us in the daily recitation of the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha Lapis Lazuli Radiance Tathagata.

Monday 7-8 am 3-4:10 pm
Tuesday 7-8 am 3-4:10 pm
Wednesday 7-8 am 3-4:10 pm
Thursday 9:50-10:50 am 3-4:10 pm
Friday 7-8 am 3-4:10 pm
Saturday 7-8 am 1:50-2:50 pm
Sunday 7-8 am 3-4:10 pm

May the Three Jewels be merciful to us; may the merits benefit all our benefactors above as well as all those in the lower realms. We will dedicate these merits toward peace in the world and all sentient beings, so that all may eradicate all their afflictions, be free from calamities, and attain enlightenment.

 

Six Paramitas; Remedies to Afflictions, by the numbers

Isaac  Newton postulated; “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  This is the same basis for Karma and all that is taught in Mahayana  Buddhism.  As part of the instruction of  the Dharma, here are some of the practices for eradicating afflictions and  poisons.

To free us from the six causes of suffering, the Six Paramitas are the remedies:

Dana—Giving and generosity to eradicate greed  and stinginess
Sila—Virtue and morality to eradicate misconducts and moral corruption
Ksanti—Patience, tolerance, acceptance, and endurance to eradicate anger and hatred
Virya—Energy, diligence, courage, enthusiasm and effort to eradicate laziness and dullness
Dhyana—Meditation, absorption, concentration and contemplation to eradicate distraction and monkey mind
Prajna—Transcendental wisdom to eradicate ignorance and delusion

In practicing the Paramitas with concentration and diligence, we can eradicate these vexations and  learn to cultivate generosity, virtue, and transcendental wisdom.

Dedication of Merits

The  practice of Dedication of Merits is chanted by the Buddha Gate  assembly during ceremonies,  and at  the conclusion of every meditation class. What  are the merits we are dedicating, and to whom are they directed?

The merits we dedicate are from our good deeds, altruistic thoughts, and pure mind.  We dedicate the merits to all sentient beings. This, along with good conditions, will help  their positive karma develop into a positive effect.

There are many other forms of merits we can dedicate, such as chanting the Three Refuges or  sutras.

To whom can we dedicate merits? We can dedicate merits to  any person, any group, and  all sentient beings. Through a sincere and concentrated mind, we can help  others by offering our positive thoughts to them. We can direct merits to a  family member or friend – whether living or deceased. For example, we can  dedicate merits for a good outcome to someone facing adversity, or to deceased  relatives to increase their awareness of the Buddha Dharma for rebirth into a  higher realm.

If there is suffering somewhere else in the world because of a  natural disaster or human-caused suffering, we may feel helpless. However, besides material support we  can make a difference by dedicating merits. These are not bound by physical limits.  Imagine the power of dedicating merits to all sentient beings when the assembly  recites a sutra in complete concentration.

Think about it. Since dedicating merits is karma made by you, what  could be some of the resulting effects?

A story about an ancient King’s repentance and good deeds

There once was a king in India, named YueShi.  During times of war, he fought on the battlefields and killed many people. One day, he suddenly reflected inwardly and realized, “I have created so much offensive karma, I will certainly suffer the retribution of hell.” He became fearful, made sincere repentance and resolved to never again create such bad karma. He even resolved to uphold the precepts, practice charity, build shelter for the Sangha, and offer food, medicine, clothing and the other necessities of life to the Sangha so that they could focus on their practice without worries.

The King’s ministers became wary and questioned the King, “Your majesty, you previously did a lot of killing and committed many offenses. Do you think that the good deeds you have done recently can truly remedy your previous offences?”

When the King heard this he immediately ordered one of his ministers to fill a big pot with water and boil it nonstop for seven days and seven nights.  The King then threw a ring into the boiling pot.  He asked his ministers to retrieve the ring. The ministers were alarmed and said, “Please, sentence us to death! If the King wants us to retrieve the ring from the boiling water, it would be like a death sentence.”

The King asked them, “Is it true that there is no way to retrieve the ring without being burned to death?”

At that moment, a wise minister said, “You only have to extinguish the fire beneath the pot and pour cold water from above. Then you can retrieve the ring safely.”

The King told his ministers, “My previous offences are like adding fire to the pot.  Now that I have come to a realization, I have made repentance, I no longer create evil karma, and I cultivate all kinds of good deeds to expel all offensive karma.  This is like extinguishing the fire beneath the pot and pouring cold water from above. The ring can easily be taken out. “

A proverb says, “The sea of suffering is boundless and dark; turn your head around and you will see the shore.” “Head” means thought. “Turn your head around” is to change our thoughts. “The shore” is the place of illumination and liberation, in contrast to the darkness of the sea of suffering. Sentient beings are bound by their karma. If they can raise their awareness and reflect inwardly, truly examine and recognize the evil karma which they have created, change evil thoughts to good thoughts, and sincerely make repentance, the karmic force will be dispelled by the pure and sincere mind. They will then be freed from the bondage of evil karma, expel disasters and offenses, and the luminous shore will emerge.

Seven Round Compassion Contemplation

In this meditation practice, we move from a breath-counting technique to contemplation. Through repentance and reflection we deepen our compassion.  By practicing this deeper form of contemplation and meditation, we repent our misdeeds, dedicate ourselves to benefit others, and strengthen our own meditation practice. If we practice this contemplation every day, we will soon obtain many benefits: our anger will be replaced by tolerance, our minds will be more at peace, our social interactions will improve, and our friends and foes alike will be more amenable and open to Buddhist cultivation. Here is a model for this meditation practice.

Read the Compassion Contemplation Seven times in the following manner: First read the columns from top to bottom, then  from bottom to top. Repeat until you have sincerely read from top to bottom four times and bottom to top three times. During the contemplation, stay focused. Do not be distracted such as conjuring the people’s faces in your mind. This counts as one session of the Seven-Round Compassion Contemplation.

Elder Dear Ones
I have not appreciated how much my elders have done for me. I should have been more respectful toward them, should have observed filial piety, & should have made them happy. Instead, I have not done as well as I could have.  I have made them angry, ignored their advice, and hurt them with my immature behavior. Now I sincerely repent, and wish to make amends with merits from my Buddhist cultivation. By dedicating the merits of the Third Dhyana Heaven to them, I wish to eradicate their Three Poisons (greed, anger and ignorance), clear their karmic obstacles, hear, practice and support the Buddha Dharma, gain blessings and wisdom, bring forth the Bodhi mind, and never regress until perfect enlightenment is achieved. I also dedicate the merits to my Elder-Dear Ones from all my past lifetimes and wish that they be reborn in one of the better realms (human or devas), eradicate the Three Poisons, clear their karmic obstacles, hear, practice and support the Buddha Dharma, gain blessings and wisdom, bring forth the Bodhi mind, and never regress until perfect enlightenment is achieved.

Peer Dear Ones
I should have been friendly, helpful, and tolerant toward my peer dear-ones, but instead I was jealous of them, I argued and fought with them, and now I repent and make amends to them with my merits. By dedicating the merits of the Second Dhyana Heaven to them, I wish for them to eradicate the Three Poisons, clear their karmic obstacles, and achieve perfect enlightenment. Ialso dedicate the merits of the Second Dhyana Heaven to my Peer-Dear ones wishing them be reborn as humans or devas, until perfect enlightenment is achieved.

Junior Dear Ones
I should have done my best in instructing and guiding my Junior Dear ones, spending time with them, being kind and patient toward them.  Now I wish for them to eradicate their Three Poisons, clear their karmic obstacles, and achieve perfect enlightenment. I also dedicate the merits of the First Dhyana Heaven from all my past lives to my Junior-Dear Ones.

Elders’ Foes 
I wish to turn the bad karma between those that were hostile to my elders, or whom my elders disliked or resented, into good karma. By dedicating the merits of the Third Dhyana Heaven to them, I wish for them to be reborn into one of the better realms, eradicate the Three Poisons, clear their karmic obstacles, and achieve perfect enlightenment. I also dedicate the merits to my Elder-Foes of all my past lives.

Peers’ Foes   
To those that are foes of my Peers, including my own enemies, if they have done wrongs to me, I wish to forgive them and never think of retaliation.  If I have done wrongs to them, I wish to repent and make amends. I dedicate the merits of the Second Dhyana Heaven to them, and wish them well. I wish for them to be reborn into one of the better realms, eradicate the Three Poisons, clear their karmic obstacles, and achieve perfect enlightenment. I wish the same for my Peer-Foes of my previous lifetimes.

Juniors’ Foes 
To those that are foes of my Juniors including my own enemies, if they have done wrongs to me, I wish to forgive them and never think of retaliation. If I  have done wrongs to them, I wish to repent and make amends. I dedicate the merits of the First Dhyana Heaven to them, and wish them well.  I wish for them to be reborn into one of the better realms, and eradicate the Three        Poisons. I wish the same for my Junior-Foes of my previous lifetimes.

Neutral Ones 
To those that are neither dear nor hostile toward my elders, my peers, my juniors and me, I now dedicate my remaining merits to them. I wish for them to be reborn into one of the better realms, and eradicate the Three Poisons. I wish the same for Neutral-Ones of my previous lifetimes.

Compassion Contemplation

“Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.” ~The Dhammapada
Compassion is one of the fundamental qualities of a Buddhist practitioner.  Without compassion toward other sentient beings, one becomes self-centered and easily irritated.  From irritation comes annoyance, from annoyance comes resentment, from resentment comes anger and hatred, which in turn lead to conflict, fights and even wars.
When we are self-centered, the false ego is reinforced, and we are further away from enlightenment.  When we are easily irritated, are bitter about our situation in life, or are often angry about many things, we are unpleasant to be with and will lose friends.  Furthermore, this anger tortures no one more than ourselves.

Compassion and kindness are the medicines that overcome the poison of anger.  Therefore, the development of compassion is an important task for all Buddhist practitioners.  We now introduce an important meditation method for developing our compassion toward all people.

Everyday Buddhism – Driving

When driving, enclosed in our cars, unable to see, hear or communicate with other drivers, we often disconnect from  others on the road. Sometimes we take others’ driving habits personally, and become angry or stressed. How do we keep our Bodhisattva practice in the midst of the Bay Area Traffic?
When traffic reporters talk about  roads, they use words like ‘flow,’ ‘blocked,’ and ‘diverted,’ as if they were describing water. If we were rafting down a river, would it do any good to get mad at the boulders in our way? Wouldn’t we simply go around them? Taking this analogy, other drivers are like the boulders in the water. Annoyance and anger will only ruin our day. Acknowledge the situation and let it go.

Driving is the perfect time to practice  your awareness. Instead of thinking about projects at work or home, try just being aware of your driving and surroundings. This will not only relieve your  stress on the road, it will make you a safer driver.

Coping with Anger

Everyone feels angry at times. However, left unchecked, this strong emotion can build and tip you out of control even over something minor. You can avoid this strong response by maintaining a calm mind.

First, know when you are angry; being annoyed is often anger’s first cousin. Second, when you are angry, try one of these suggestions to defuse it:

Breathe deeply, like in meditation. Have the breaths come from your belly, not your chest.
Slowly repeat a calming word, such as ‘Amitofo’ to yourself as you breathe deeply.
If you are able to, meditate. Even if your mind is reeling, work at controlling that ‘Monkey Mind’ will ratchet the anger down.
If you are with a person that you are feeling angry with, and you are able to, excuse yourself and step away for a few moments to calm your frustrations. Take this time to reflect carefully on what you plan to do or say.
Verbally communicate with the person what you perceive the issue to be. This will bring it into the open so if it’s a misunderstanding, it can be identified. If it’s a true problem, it identifies that there is some strong emotion on your part.
Start suggesting solutions; moving the focus from what made you mad to what to do to resolve the issue will redirect the negative forces.
Use humor to help diffuse the situation. Be careful not to make it worse with sarcasm!
If this is not a ‘face to face’ situation, try taking a walk, or do some slow stretches such as yoga. Physical activity can burn some of the negative energy and turn it around.
Write about your  anger. Not publicly, like on your Facebook page, but only to yourself. If you write it on a piece of paper, then burn it, or crumple it up and throw it away, it can be a symbol of what you want to do to your anger.

Anger, when left unchecked, destroys relationships and lives. We can eradicate this vexation by having the right views. Practice restraint, compassion, and  awareness and you will set yourself free.

Dana is…

handOpening the hand
Opening the mind
Opening the heart

In Buddhism, Dana is the act of giving. Dana takes many different forms.

We practice Dana when we support the Sangha with gifts of material wealth, and with gifts of time and talent. Dana is also the gift of the Dharma, as we receive it from our teachers, and as we model the Bodhisattva Way for the world. We practice Dana when we care for our elders, and when we comfort the sick, and aid the depressed and the troubled. We can practice Dana to the world by feeding the hungry, by working for justice, and even by becoming an organ donor.

In the spiritual realm, we practice Dana when we make offerings to the Buddhas and to all he saints and sages. When we make offerings with a respectful mind, we create affinities with the Three Jewels and the saints and sages, increasing our blessings and merits.

As we give, we must cultivate a mind of respect, compassion, and purity. To give without any notion of the giver, the receiver, or the gift is to achieve the “Triple Emptiness,” which is the true perfection of charity.