Friday, April 13, 2012

How to Make Qing Ming festival more Buddhist?

Referring to this article - - I think young lads have forgotten that qingming is not just about remembering the ancestors. So, virtual qingming doesn't cut it. The idea is also to clean the graves and most importantly to benefit them (and others like them) in a real way, such as doing a transference of merit. Tibetan lamas do not quite understand this festival as it is not their tradition to bury the dead nor do they keep the ashes of the dead. Hence they just perform jangwa puja for the dead. Jangwa alone, unfortunately, it not quite complete qingming. Real qingming must be accompanied by a visit to the grave or the columbarium (where the ashes is kept) and offerings made there. But some people do it at home. As mentioned before, Buddhists have also to be blamed for not being able to adapt to this Confucian practice. They think burning all the paper cars, paper clothes, paper shoes, etc is not Buddhism. So, some Buddhists tend to stay away from this festival and merely perform jangwa or other prayers at the temple. They forget good Buddhist masters in the past have been able to adapt local cultures and practices into a Dharma practice and make it a Buddhist practice. In this way, the Buddha dharma is able to spread far and wide in the past. Nowadays people don't have this ability anymore.

The reality is that these paper stuffs to be burned were not meant to reach the ancestors in the first place.  They are just manifestations of our high regard for the contributions of our ancestors. It is a mistake to think that people offer food to the Buddha in the hope that the Buddha will eat it. Tibetan Buddhists also mould the mandala copper plate as a symbolic representation of the whole universe. Similarly the torma is also a symbolic of something else. Hence whether it  is real food, real clothes, or paper clothes, or paper car, these are merely manifesttations of our sincerity to offer them. BUT it will be good to first offer these paper stuffs (by thinking/visualising) to the Triple Jewel, and not just to your ancestors. Only by offering these to the Triple Jewels, do our ancestors benefit from the offerings. And then it will not go to waste! It will become a powerful fire puja. Hence I do go to offer food, drinks, fruits, and paper clothes, paper money, etc, not only to my late grandparents and grand uncle, but mainly to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. And then I pray that wherever they are now, they will get adequate food, shelter, clothes and other needs. Same for the other departed ones. I recited the Great Compassionate Dharani and Heart Sutra for them and all sentient beings. This year I recited these in the Korean version. I am sure they loved it. I do this practically alone, when actually usually it should be done by my parents.  I am not sure whether they do perform qingming or not but I can feel that they are not very keen on that. My brothers/sisters are away outstation and qingming is not their cup of tea. I don't have to do it, but yet I do it every year. The young generation should continue this practice although I agree it may come a time, we could run out of place for columbariums or burial plots. I, for one, may just decide to let my ashes be strewn in the wind above the hills... just like Master Hsuan Hua's ashes. But maybe I want someone to keep my memorial photo somewhere at a temple so that I can keep in contact with the dharma. The Sangha members there could still continue to benefit me after I am gone.    

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