An Abbot’s Encouragement In Celebrating The New Year Together

Original Discourse By Venerable Jing Yuan; Translation by StudyingTheDharma.wordpress.com

“I have always felt that to be able to have everyone get together and celebrate the new year via dharma practice, this creates a virtuous energy that will sustain the strong bond that binds all fellow dharma practitioners together life after life, and not be separated by the cause and effects of the secular world.” – Venerable Jing Yuan

Hello, everyone. Happy New Year to all.

Today, we have many people from different places attending this gathering via online connection, including Indonesia and Malaysia. There are many places connected to one another. I would like to wish everyone again – Happy New Year, may all wishes come true, and may everyone be blessed with increasing bliss and wisdom. According to our practices in the past, our Master will convey his new year wishes to people from different places every year. In the later years, we conveyed our wishes via telephone calls, and now we can do so with video calls where everyone can see one another.

Due to our different karmic conditions, we have been scattered all over the world. Everyone was born in different regions and different cities, in Malaysia, Indonesia, so many places. This process of dharma learning and practice will still happen in this way life after life. Perhaps we may feel that there is no other way, there is no way in this life, to be born in a place where our Master or teacher is, so we may feel that they are quite a distance away from us. Personally, I feel that there is no need to have such a great regret.

Throughout the history of Buddhism, we have seen that many generations of highly accomplished masters or dharma seekers, whether they belong to the sangha community or as laypersons, they were also born all over the world. They too, had to spend a tremendous amount of time, setting off on a long trek, travelling a long way to find their spiritual teachers to learn the Dharma.

Master Xuan Zang spent four years trekking thousands of miles to India to learn the Yogācāra teachings from the great Master Śīlabhadra. The Great Master Atisha, after travelling from Bangladesh to India, scoured everywhere in India to find his spiritual teacher, and even travelled by boat to Sumatra Island so as to meet and learn from Master Ser-ling-ba. Even now, our sangha members in Taiwan are also travelling to another place far away by plane, to Canada, to learn from our teacher.

So when we are presented with the karmic condition of our present situation, it is not necessarily one where we are in a disadvantage. The most important thing for us is to grasp hold of our lives and make the best arrangements. Although we may be born in different places, but because we share the same teacher, we are able to follow the same teachings, especially the complete teachings that Master Tsong-kha-pa has taught us.

And through the efforts of our fellow practitioners, we are able to continuously form different discussion groups to learn and practice the stages of the path to enlightenment. Just as what our teacher has mentioned – like each lotus flower blooming in a lotus pond. Thus everyone, although we may be in different places, but we are like in a lotus pond, full of blooming lotus flowers, this meaning our discussion groups. This is such a gratifying matter. And everyone, I also have full admiration for everyone, because through everyone’s learning and practicing of our Master’s precious teachings in different parts of the world, we are able to propagate the teachings to others around us, resulting in many more lotus ponds.

During the Chinese New Year, we often wished one another ” good fortune according to your wishes ” and “abundance of wealth”. So what is the best ” good fortune according to your wishes “? To be able to learn from our teachers life after life and practice the dharma teachings, so that each and every lifetime we are able to advance to our final goal of attaining Budhhahood, that would be the best good fortune. To be able to meet the Triple Gem, that is the best of all wishes. To be able to complete our collections of merits and sublime wisdom through the practice of the dharma, that is the best of all wishes. Once we are able to overcome our sufferings, what else is there to wish for? Thus, I wish for everyone to be able to come across the teachings of Master Tsong-kha-pa, to increase our merits and wisdom, and to attain complete compassion and wisdom like the Buddha.

Since we all seek wealth, then what is the best wealth? The opportunity to be able to make offerings to the Triple Gem, be it monetary offerings or dharma offerings, or the offerings of dharma practice, these offerings help us accumulate great merits. Monetary offerings allow us to plant the cause for the freedom from worrying about good and clothing for many lifetimes. Compared to many others around the world, many of us are very blessed. There are many places where people have neither enough to eat nor warm clothing to wear, and there is no reason for them to celebrate the festive new year at all. Today, all of us are in our own country, in our own homes that have been decorated with festive cheer, and also we have many tasty festive goodies. This is what we call blessings. So if we could treasure whatever we have at this moment now and practice giving, then we will have more and more blessings in our future lifetimes.

For the giving of dharma, it could be like we are now gathered here together, I can strongly feel that everyone has gathered here not for the purpose of worldly gain and fame, but to sincerely pay our respects to the Triple Gem, and to wish one another a happy new year. To have everyone gathered and to wish one another – by “one another” I mean especially fellow dharma practitioners – there is an effect of mutual encouragement.  With the start of a new year, it is a period of much chaos. When everyone is gathered together to wish one another well, to bring encouragement to one another, using your body and speech to show support so that others will continue to persevere on in advancing on this dharma path with faith and stead. In actual fact, this is also a form of giving of the dharma. Does everyone agree? If you agree, then you should encourage one another, pat each other on the back, give the other person a great handshake. If there is no one else around you, then your left hand can give your right hand a handshake, just like that. “Good job, good job!”   

Although when we cross each other’s path now, we are unrelated to one another in any way and we may have forgotten that we were once virtuous dharma friends, but we are here together now, becoming dharma friends that rely on one another. To be able to meet time and again throughout our infinite lifetimes, this is definitely a cause that we have planted in our previous lives. If you and your family members have the same connection with the dharma, then you are all dharma partners, that is for sure a cause planted in the past, that is even more auspicious, so do treasure it.

With the Dharma still in existence on this earth, and in the upcoming two thousand or more years, we must cherish it. Time passes by very quickly and moments are gone too soon, much too soon. Although we will continue our Bodhi life in other realms, we must still make good use of these two thousand and five hundred years that we have right before our eyes. I have always felt that to be able to have everyone get together and celebrate the new year via dharma practice, this creates a virtuous energy that will sustain the strong bond that binds all fellow dharma practitioners together life after life, and not be separated by the cause and effects of the secular world. 

That is why in the past, our Master explained the reason for encouraging everyone to pay respects to the Triple Gem at the monastery during the chinese new year. The most fundamental objective is, besides celebrating the festivities in accordance to tradition, our Master wished that everyone would be strongly reminded that we must advance along our lifetimes. Even when we might be distracted during the festive season to indulge in merry making, we must be reminded of our reliance on the Triple Gem so that our virtuous karma gets better and better.  

Therefore, we can spend the new year with a very sacred, joyful, and with an even purer intention, just like this time today. Although there are no special preparation for hospitality, there is no delicious food, but everyone has gathered together for the purpose of the dharma. Everyone has the motivation to desire in following our Master’s teachings. I think this is the most gratifying thing, and our Master would feel more and more at ease. Our Master has guided us through many lifetimes, and this bond with him will not be broken just because he has left this world. We will see our Master again soon, and we are still being taken care of by our teacher, so we can follow our great teacher.

On a good day like today, today is the second day of the new year, I am also very happy to wish everyone great progress in the new year, may you have good fortune according to your wishes.

Venerable Jing Yuan is currently the abbot of BW Monastery in Singapore. The original discourse of this article is in chinese and can be found here: https://bit.ly/2BH0lkK

If dharma teachings interest you, catch more snippets at BW Monastery – https://bwmonastery.org.sg/discourses/

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Kindness Gone Viral For The Chinatown Complex Towel Uncle.

Singapore – When one hears of another needs help, one starts the ball rolling with the click of one’s finger.

Here’s How The Story Goes. Just a few weeks ago, 55 year old Mr Yoong is a shop owner selling towels in Chinatown Complex. Chinatown Complex will soon be closed for renovation work for 3 months, meaning that many stall owners will have to stop business during this period. This would be a financially tight period for Mr Yoong, as he is the sole breadwinner for his two twin sisters with muscular dystrophy.

Here Comes The Call For Support. It all started with one kind-hearted soul introducing the stall on the social media platform Facebook, asking friends to support the stall should they need new towels for the nearing Chinese New Year so that Mr Yoong can accumulate some money to tide through the next few months during the renovation.

Here Comes The Social Media.

Different groups heard of this news and they joined in the call for support too. After all, how else could they better use their connections and high popularity to add to the ripple effect? The call to action was to either support by purchasing the towels at the store or activate the share button. And of course the local news caught on, and even managed to come up with an interview.

Here Comes The POWER of Social Media. Members of the public responded to the call to action, one thing led to another, and before you know it, Mr Yoong found a long queue of eager patrons and his towels were all sold out within 2 days.

Overwhelmed By Support and Gratitude. A humble and smiling man, though a wee bit overwhelmed with the sudden rise in business, Mr Yoong was grateful for the support, but politely declined donations or to keep any monetary change from the towel transactions with the many kind-hearted customers. He has also refused any sympathy, because he feels he is fulfilling his responsibilities to his two sisters as a brother. And that was how Mr Yoong became affectionately known as The Chinatown Complex Towel Uncle.

Give. Even If We Only Have A Little. In our little red dot Singapore, though we complain about rising prices, we are frustrated about the unstable job market and we worry about difficult times. Yet at the call for action to help another fellow being, we each still set aside our worries and do what we can to help.

As the Buddha taught in the Dhammapada – “Give, even if you only have a little.” Even when we give very little, yes, even as little as the lift of a finger to click on the share button, the impact of the ripple effect is enough to make a family’s life better. This is the beauty of generosity.

Source of report:

https://mothership.sg/2019/01/chinatown-complex-uncle-yoong-towel-sold-out/

https://mothership.sg/2019/01/chinatown-complex-towel-stall-183/

How We Could Have Abandoned The Dharma Without Knowing

“There are those with misunderstanding who hold that some teachings are methods for becoming a buddha and some teachings are obstacles to becoming a buddha. They then differentiate the words of the Buddha into good and bad, reasonable and unreasonable, and great and small vehicles. Finally, they hold that some teachings are to be cast aside, saying, “A bodhisattva should train in this and should not train in that.” Thus, they abandon the teachings.  “

“Mañjuśrī, the karmic obstruction of abandoning the excellent teaching is subtle. If you say, “This was set forth for the sake of bodhisattvas; this was set forth for the sake of Śrāvakas,” you abandon the teaching. If you say, “This was set forth for the sake of pratyekabuddhas,” you abandon the teaching. If you say, “This is not a training of bodhisattvas,” you abandon the teaching. ” – 《Sūtra Gathering All the Threads》

The fault of having abandoned the teaching is very grave. The 《King of Concentrations Sũtra》 says: “The wrongdoing of one who abandons the collections of Sūtras is far greater than that of one who causes the destruction of all of the stupas here in Jambudvipa. The wrongdoing of one who abandons the collections of Sūtras is far greater than that of one who kills arhats equal in number to the sands of the Ganges.”

In general, there are many ways that abandoning the teaching can occur. However, the way indicated above is the worst, so take pains to eliminate it. 

– Master Tsong-kha-pa, The Great Treatise On The Stages Of The Path To Enlightenment  Vol. 1, Pg 53, The Greatness Of The Teaching


 If dharma teachings interest you, catch more snippets at BW Monastery – https://bwmonastery.org.sg/discourses/



Usher In The Year Of The Pig In Style – The Buddhist Style

As the doggie makes an exit and piggie makes an entrance, different parts of Singapore are gearing up to usher in the new year, each in their own style. It’s pretty predictable that crowds will be bustling as usual at Chinatown with its festive street bazaars, or be dazzled by the pyrotechnics display and fireworks at River Hongbao.

Why not usher in the year in another style – The Buddhist Style – that adds more insight to the Chinese New Year activities that we usually do to welcome a new year? Here are some tips to The Buddhist Style that BW Monastery is gearing up with before embarking on an auspicious year, with great blessings awaiting us.

The Buddhist Style Tip #1 – Ensuring The Together-ness Among All Generations

Contrary to what is traditionally believed, Buddhism is no longer an old stick-in-the-mud that our grandmothers follow but the younger generation is following the teachings of the Buddha too. With Chinese New Year being celebrated by the young and young-at-heart, BW Monastery opens its doors to a party comprising of all generations coming together.

It’s going to be a lively countdown session to get ready for a super-lucky-ultra-prosperous year, and what could be livelier than the monastery’s very own auspicious dragon dance to rouse the festive mood?  You’ll find the uncles and the aunties letting down their hairs and having fun with the young ones, even the grandmothers join in the fun.

The Buddhist Style Tip #2 – Letting Go And Getting Renewed Through Prayers

While the countdown party symbolizes the welcoming of a super-lucky-ultra-prosperous year of happiness, before getting the party started and having fun, we need to start off the new year on the right foot by getting our intentions right. 

Venerables will be present before the countdown party to lead all devotees in prayers. So this is the time when we reflect on the afflictions and attachments that have troubled us over the years and as the venerable lead us in the prayers, we supplicate with sincerity to be able to awaken our hears and mind towards letting our troubles go with the practice of compassion and wisdom.

The Buddhist Style Tip #3 – Welcoming The Year With A Bang

One of the main highlight of the night is BW Monastery’s abbot, Venerable Jing Yuan, leading everyone in the chanting of “The Bell Verse” which is a very beautiful tune used by traditional monasteries since thousands of years ago. 

The words to the moving tune speak of the deepest wish for the country to be harmonious and peaceful, its people to be well and happy, as well as all sentient beings to be enlightened.  With the sacred and solemn striking of the bell, this symbolizes the ushering of the New Year with all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and welcoming the God of Fortune.

The Buddhist Style Tip #4 – Start the Year Auspicious and Blissful

Conventional practice on the first two days of the new year would be dressing up in new clothes and off you go house-visiting relatives and friends. No, no, no…… that’s not the Buddhist Style of this era today. What’s the start of an auspicious year if you don’t start off with something auspicious?? And what else can be more auspicious than receiving greetings from one of the Three Jewels – the sangha community? There will be a few sessions of CNY Greetings by the venerables at BW Monastery, and not only that, there will be intricately planned activities themed with auspiciousness and blissfulness, like The Blissful Highway of Prayer Wheels, sprinkling of flower petals over the Buddha statue and there’s even a statue of the Maitreya Bodhisattva that nods and smiles.

The Buddhist Style Tip #5 – Glowing With Family Harmony

You’ve got to admit, photo-taking is one of the must-do’s during the Chinese New Year. We take photos at the reunion dinners, we take photos at whatever big red flower decoration that we see at the malls, we even take photos wherever we sit. This together-ness is very precious and will certainly leave memories for everyone. Then why not take a photo with BW Monastery’s iconic “The Bliss Glow Family Lantern”?

Otherwise known as the Family Lantern of Abundance and Blessings, it symbolizes a bright future for our next and future generations, bliss and harmony within the family and freedom from obstacles at work.

This gigantic lantern is the biggest ever in the northern part of Singapore. Now this is what we call glowing with family harmony.

Wait!

And just when you think that the festivities die down after the first two days of the new year? Apparently not at BW Monastery, since the Lunar New Year runs for a period of 15 days .

The Buddhist Style Tip #6 – Improving Your Fortune

In between Black Jack, 3 Kings, Bacarat and Mahjong, these are friendly games that families and friends bond together and a winning streak is believed to symbolize a year of fortune.  There is also another belief that Chinese zodiac sign conflict with Tai Sui each year, and one who belongs to the zodiac sign that is in conflict will encounter misfortune and bad luck. This belief belongs to Chinese astrology, Feng Shui and Taoism, but to a much lesser extent in Buddhism. Contrary to what should be believed, it is definite that we do not wish for misfortune and we welcome more fortune instead. So the best way to improve one’s fortune is to accumulate merits and purify obstacles, and of course BW Monastery has definitely made plans for this.

There are several sessions of Fortune Blessing Prayers that are lead by the venerables, and they are spread over a few days at different timings. Here’s where devotees can make mass offerings to the Three Jewels, supplicating for abundant merits and wisdom, good health as well as the clearance of obstacles.

Last but not least….

The Buddhist Style Tip #7 – Signaling The Exit Of The Year With Gratitude And Welcoming The New

On the last day of the Lunar New Year, the lively atmosphere of the Chinese New Year celebration would have significantly died down. Similar to taking our leave at a party by giving our thanks and appreciation to the host and everyone else for having a good time, this is a time where we pay our gratitude to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for the good things that have taken place in the past year, and give our thanks for the strength to be able to make things work out when times are bad.  At the same time, we can make wishes for a better year for not only ourselves, but for everyone and even the country.

The Offering to Buddha and The Heavenly Realm Puja is a very dignified prayer session with chanting, where devotees can make offerings to the heavens, pay respect and gratitude to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as well as supplicate for the country to have prosperity, peace, and social stability for its citizens.

Well, there we are, 7 great tips altogether to ensure an auspicious and meritorious start to a great year, why not try it The Buddhist Style?

Join BW Monastery to bid farewell to the year of Dog and welcome the year of the Pig —> https://bwmonastery.org.sg/2019-lunar-new-year

Asking Questions Like On An Exploration Expedition

How do you describe a person who asks questions? There are different descriptions depending on one’s intention. A learner asks the why’s and the how’s to master a subject. A thinker asks questions because he ponders about facts, logics and reasons behind things that happen in this or that way. Inquisitive people ask questions because it’s their nature to want to know everything, even if not related to their own lives.

Fundamentally, we ask questions because there is something that we do not understand, and we have this desire to learn and gain information about it. Of course, it is also possible that we are not even aware of what to ask, and we readily accept the information given to us without any questions because we are not in the habit of always thinking thoroughly. This is very disadvantageous for a Buddhist practitioner.

The Purpose Of Asking Questions In Dharma Practice. To a Buddhist practitioner, asking questions is of great importance, because when we seek the correct answer to our each and every question, this process is a good way to build up our understanding of the dharma.  When we analyze the information received from different sources like listening to our teachers, through our own research and discussions with other people, we contemplate and compare against our own views, and then we seek clarification on the definition of the subject, what comes within its boundaries or how wide is the scope of the subject.

It simply doesn’t make sense when something valuable like gems, jewels and gold is being analyzed for its purity and quality before anyone would purchase them, but we do not analyze the teachings of the Buddha before accepting them.

It’s More Than Just Q&A, It’s A Realization. When we cultivate the habit of asking questions and the wish to seek for answers, this means that we will be in a constant state of contemplation. When we are constantly contemplating the what’s, why’s and how’s, we are in fact developing the skill of observing our physical and mental states at all times as well. For example, we may notice that we are feeling irritated about something today and we can start our observation by asking ourselves questions: firstly we need to be aware of our irritation arising, then what are we irritated about? Is it because of someone?  But that someone may not have done anything to us today, it’s just that we feel irritated even by the sight of him. Why is that so? Through further observation and the analyzing of our thoughts, we might recall something unpleasant that he had done previously. Although we might not have been affected then, but the memory stayed in our sub-conscious and it all comes back to us today.

Constantly On An Exploration Expedition. With this habit of questioning and seeking the correct answers, we are exploring our emotions and then discovering and excavating our problems that have been buried deep within us, our problems which we do not discover easily.  We start to gain realization of how our emotions or afflictions arise in different situations. Our emotions are tied to the infamous 3 types of afflictions – Greed/Attachment, Hostility/Anger and Ignorance. Most of the time, these emotions lead us respond either negatively or positively, and this happens naturally before we are even aware of it! This is an important realization for Buddhist practitioners, for this will motivate us to think further about how to apply the dharma to counteract against our afflictions in our everyday lives.

2 Steps To Make This Exploration Trip A Right One. Once we have explored our problems and discovered our affliction, the next step is very important, and that is to not immediately jump to conclusion and recklessly determine that it is someone else’s fault. The following step is to determine why did this affliction arise, and this needs more patience because we need to consider the circumstances objectively from different perspectives –  Was the affliction slowly built up inside me until it reached its brim and overflowed, because there was no purification through confession? Or did I forget to conduct my body, speech and mind with mindfulness? Or did I remember to start my day with the correct intention of benefitting others and not think of myself only?  

With this habit of constantly asking questions and seeking the correct answers, we are always observing our physical and mental states, which is of utmost important. By doing so, we will not allow ourselves to be blindly led by our emotions and so we will never be controlled by them. Instead, because we look at every situation from many different perspectives, we will always be in a debate session with our emotions, using what we learnt from the Buddha’s teaching to question our emotions and then counteract against them.

Sharing of reflections is based upon personal contemplation from the learning of the dharma teachings at BW Monastery. 

 If dharma teachings interest you, catch more snippets at BW Monastery – https://bwmonastery.org.sg/discourses/

What’s The Main Ingredient In The Laba Porridge?

The What Porridge? The Laba Porridge is a congee dish that Buddhists prepare every year during the celebration of The Laba Festival. The Laba Festival occurs on the eight day of the twelfth month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The term “Laba” is derived from the date of the festival, and is actually a chinese term – “La” is the pronunciation for the chinese character 腊 which represents Lunar Month and “Ba” is the pronunciation for the chinese character 八 which means Eight. The eighth day of the twelfth month is also the day of the enlightenment of the Buddha.

Why Porridge? During the Buddha’s endeavor in search of the right path in attaining enlightenment, he started with extreme ascetic practices that did not reveal the path and left him starving and weak. A village girl named Sujata was on her way to visit a tree-god with a bowl of milk porridge in her hands, and seeing the Buddha in his emaciated state, she mistook him for the tree-god and offered him the milk porridge which the Buddha accepted.

The Buddha then regained his energy and sat under the Bodhi tree in meditation, vowing that he would never arise until he attained the answer to the truth to awakening. After 49 days of meditation, the Buddha attained enlightenment at the age of 35. Thus, the Laba porridge is prepared to represent the milk porridge that was offered to the Budhha and to commemorate the Buddha’s path to enlightenment.

What’s The Main Ingredient In The Laba Porridge? It’s a beautifully rich mixture of red dates, lotus seeds, red beans and grains cooked in deliciously hot sweet broth, but the main ingredient in the porridge is actually the ASPIRATION – the aspiration to attain perfect enlightenment after consuming the porridge, just like what happened to the Buddha.

So, how about giving the Laba porridge a go today?

Nothing But the Buddha’s Efforts In Three Countless Eons

“ Why not achieve Buddhahood in one try? That is because the root nature of living beings is not there yet. Even though the Buddha guided them life after life, advised them to do it this way, to do it like this, but everyone still grasped tightly to their personal preference. As a result, they ended up with the same old path. Due to this, the Buddha just had to match to our tendency and coax you with: well, well, this is good, that is good too! However, in spite of this, you will eventually reach the destination. So the Buddha complied with our tendency in this manner or, to use the worldly term, coaxes you – this is called expedient-means. Therefore, all of these convenience approaches are nothing but the Buddha’s efforts in three countless eons, actually it is immeasurable eons, accumulated with painstaking endeavor. During the process of accumulation, the Buddha sacrificed his physical body and eyes, arms and legs, and brain, and even gave up the external – his spouse and country. The teachings were accumulated in this way!

What was the purpose of the Buddha coming to this world? It was to teach you everything he accumulated from beginningless time – the most complete Dharma. However, due to various propensities of living beings, the Buddha applied all kinds of approaches for you. Yet, for all of his approaches, as long as you touched a speck of it, you are also doing it right! Thus, admittedly, your experiential knowledge of great sutras, commentaries and so forth work this way – the same applies to any small matter. Therefore, the Buddha stated everywhere, that even for a children’s game – a child who crouches down to make a Buddha figure with sand – he will eventually become the Buddha. Later, if you go to a temple and engage in anything – pick up a Dharma instrument and praise the Buddha once, one hail of Buddha’s name and prostrate once – all these will even achieve Buddhahood.” – Master Jih-Chang

 If dharma teachings interest you, catch more snippets at BW Monastery – https://bwmonastery.org.sg/discourses/