The first beating of the gong and rumbling of the sacred drums had awakened the silence of the land, marking the commencement of the grand Buddha bathing ceremony in conjunction with the celebration of the three occasions - Buddha Day, Mother’s Day and Tzu Chi Day.
On 9th May 2021, dharma masters from Jing Si Abode, representatives from Tzu Chi’s Four charitable missions, police and fire department personnel and Tzu Chi volunteers came together at Hualien Jing Si Hall for the 2021 3-in-1 Celebration. The Buddha bathing ceremony was held under strict adherence to epidemic preventive regulations and safe distancing measures. For the first time, the prayer event was jointly organized with Taipei Linji Huguo Zen Buddhist Temple and Long Shan Temple and streamed live to gather blessings from around the world.
This was a change following last year (2020), where each temple had held the Buddha bathing ceremony in its own way. This year, a global celebration was held at the same time, with everyone attending in unity.
Dharma Masters Give their Blessings on this day
In the heavens above, in all that is below, nothing compares with Buddha, who remains unparalleled in the world. Having seen all in the world, there is none like Buddha.” Everyone chanted in unison, praising the merits and compassion of Buddha. Master Ming Guang of Daxiong Abode earnestly urged, “We, as the four types of disciples of Buddhist teachings, resonate in unison to express our reverence and dutifulness to Buddha.”
“Bow to Buddha, adopt a vegetarian diet piously, and best wishes to all.” The congregation bathed the Buddha statue in an orderly manner, signifying the cleansing and purifying of the heart. Master Cheng Yen compassionately called out to everyone to keep in mind our respect for all Buddhas, show gratitude towards our parents and give loving-kindness towards all sentient beings. “We are here to celebrate the birth of Buddha Shakyamuni more than 2000 years ago, express our gratitude this Mother’s day and also give thanks to all who have done their part for harmony and peace of the world.”
In this impure world of five defilements and frequent occurrences of disasters, the congregation prayed unanimously during the ceremony for a harmonious and peaceful world and for the calamities to end. Venerable Master Pu Xian of Yuan Guang Temple called out to all to turn delusions into enlightenment soon. “With the improper diet of humans, tens of billions of livestock are slaughtered daily for consumption. Such sacrifice has defied wills of nature and has hurt our ecological system, hence, leading to disasters in the world we are in.”
Master Ri Chuan of Linji Huguo Temple also expressed his words with compassion, “Killing of livestock is a trade that bears deep grudges and karma. This has become our collective karma. Such is the circumstance that we have to endure and hope that all can practise Buddhist teachings to show mercy to all sentient beings.”
For any shocking calamities that hit the world, there are lessons to be learnt by everyone. While bathing the Buddha, Master Cheng Yen earnestly pointed out that, “We look forward to overcoming the collective karma of all sentient beings with good karma. With a devout heart, we need to prevail over the karmic obstacles formed by others unknowingly in the past. We can spread dharma around the world and promote the idea of vegetarianism through interactions among people. With everyone united on the opinion that this will disrupt the tranquillity of living beings, we can promote vegetarianism so that all living beings can live in harmony. And that is the one thought we all have.”
The Great Lesson can only be attained through Deep Self-Reflection
As the congregation devoutly put their hands together in prayer and moved according to the rhythm, Liu Yijun, President of Tzu Chi University, deeply felt that the Buddha bathing ceremony on 9 May was even more exceptional than in past years. “The Buddha bathing ceremony at the square today has to be held with social distancing measures in place so as to allow for everyone to participate. This gives us the opportunity to self-reflect and be thankful that the pandemic has not spread widely across Taiwan under such circumstances. Hence we need to be more vigilant and pious.”
She said, looking back in the early twentieth century, the world overcame the Spanish Flu. Mankind should have better strength now to cope with this new variant of the virus. “With modern technology and advancement in medical science today, vaccines can be developed within 2 years. Despite that, we are still seeing new waves of the outbreak after another. This is indeed an exemplification of what Master is telling us, of a great education that nature is bringing to the human race, deserving our deep self-reflection.
A solemn yet dignified atmosphere surrounded the Budhha bathing ceremony, with harmonious movements and everyone sharing a common aspiration. President Liu said, “With every step we take and every move we make during the ceremony, we pray devoutly to Buddha. What we are cleansing is our heart, and with each step we make, we need to ask our inner self, how to start changing our attitude towards life and our habits in life?”
“Only when each of us starts to look after ourselves would we be able to protect those around us. With the right attitude and correct values in life, we can then prevent ecological damage. By not killing livestock and not consuming wildlife, we can put an end to the pandemic.” May more people open up to such wisdom and work together for peace and harmony of the world, as called for earnestly by President Liu.
Fusing Traditions and Innovation in Spreading Dharma
A temple with a rich history of two hundred and eighty-two years, Long Shan Temple collaborated with Tzu Chi for the first time to organize the Buddha bathing grand ceremony. Besides preserving traditions, Tzu Chi demonstrated innovation through technology in holding the dharma assembly. Although held in a different formation, they all bear the same significance, which is bringing together immeasurable and infinite strength of religious vow to seek blessings for the world.
The director of Long Shan Temple, Huang Shuwei said, “The significance of bathing Buddha is not in coming forth to bathe the Buddha statue, but it is through the ritual that we aim to purify our mind.”
Sutra chanter Xie Chun Xia from Long Shan temple was marvelled at the live streaming that was carried out concurrently to gather blessings. He said, “We had, in the past, always done this the traditional way. We have innovated with Tzu Chi’s involvement this time, where we can share blessings not only with those attending in the temple but also everyone online.”
For Buddhism to permeate the world, what is essential is the ability to connect with people and be down to earth.” Master Ming Ai, the abbot of Taoyuan Buddhist Society also felt that Dharma sharing will need to keep up with societal changes. He said, “To allow for the younger generation to follow the way of Dharma, we should not break away from our traditions yet we cannot steer away from innovation.”
Long Shan Temple had invited ten dharma masters to lead the congregation in praying for blessings. Amongst them is Master Ming Guang, whom had prepared a verse to pray for the Taroko train derailment accident and for the pandemic to end soon. Master Ming Guang also echoed Master Cheng Yen’s call to all to heed the great lessons of our lifetime, “May everyone, with our utmost sincerity, repentant mind, wisdom and great compassion, commit in going meatless for the peace and happiness of all sentient beings.”
Together with various religious bodies, everyone gathered online in unity to gather kind thoughts and pray for all the suffering to end.