Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Longest Mantra of Compassion

On 21 July 2008, equivalent to 6th month 19th day of the chinese lunar calendar, I received an email with an attached mantra that I had been seeking for several months. This is the longest mantra of Avalokiteshvara and it is even longer than the sanskrit verson of the dharani taught by Ven. Master Hsuan Hua.

The fact that I received it on that day which is the Chinese Mahayana's holy day marking Kuan Yin's Enlightenment, adds to the significance of the compassion mantra. I first heard it recited by Kyabje Lama Zopa and had been seeking it all over the internet. This is just so wonderful!

4 Holiest Buddhist Sites

The four holiest sites associated with the Lord Buddha are

1. Bodhgaya (Mahabodhi Stupa)
2. Lumbini Park
3. Sarnath
4. Kushinagar

The first and only site I have been to was Bodhgaya - the place Ascetic Gautama achieved Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree and became known the world over as the Buddha. When I first saw it right in front of my eyes, I almost could not believe it. It looked so magnificent and so full of energy, I was overwhelmed by it. Tears of joy flow freely on that first instance and I rejoice on the Buddha's enlightenment. In front of the Bodhi Tree, I expressed my deepest thanks to the Buddha for achieving enlightenment and making the Dharma available to all sentient beings. Then I made a personal vow. So when I saw the Great Stupa again last Friday, it reminded me of the first moment. I bowed immediately and circumambulated it three times.

However I have never been to the other three sites. So when I saw the little baby Buddha-to-be at the lotus pond taking his first seven steps at Lumbini, I was equally overjoyed and circumambulated three times. The same for Sarnath (the deer park where the Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma for the first time) and Kushinagar (the place where his physical body took a final rest), these two holy sites were so remarkable.

It was such a waste that for others not to circumambulate nor make any offerings. They regard these replicas probably as toys for tourist enjoyment. They donot know how to make full use of these replicas as a platform to remind them of the actual sites and thus accumulate merits by circumambulating it or making offerings. After all, where does the holiness or sacredness of these sites come from?

And just where was I? I was at Dong Zen temple. It is a beautiful temple built on a huge land donated by a generous Buddhist to the Fo Guang San organisation. In just one site, I was able to cover and pay homage to all the four holy sites. Should others merely admire these replicas as another tourist attraction, they will derive no spiritual benefit. It will be such a waste!

As I was enjoying these wonderful replicas, my thoughts also went to a friend that I could not say farewell to. He was leaving us to return to the USA. He came back for a few short weeks, taught dharma to his friends and then reluctantly we had to say "goodbye". We only had a few short chats but realised that our group of Buddhist friends from our schooling days had shrank to merely two of us. We realised that it is never easy to sustain our practice, what more to improve and move forward on the spiritual path- it is even harder. And just who am I talking about? He is none other than a Buddhist scholar and practitioner based in the USA. His dharma knowledge is so vast and deep, that it is never a waste of time to go listen to him.

I am also mindful of the fact that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do not merely come as monks, nuns, lamas and rinpoches. They also come as laypersons. I say this because I know of people who would only go listen to teachings by lamas, or rinpoches or monks. They won't listen to teachings conducted by any laypersons at all. So sometimes people resort to recognising themselves as "tulkus" of this and that ancient lama/rinpoche. Many people are also attracted to laypersons who are able to perform magical healings or all kinds of spiritual mumbo-jumbo. Otherwise, do you think people would go listen to their teachings? I think this is not the correct attitude. So, he doesnot indulge in these spiritual mumbo-jumbo stuffs. Nor does he regard himself as a guru. You can say that this is some sort of tribute to him, even though it is definitely inadequate.
He deserves more.

With that, I humbly take my leave. Om Mani Peme Hung.