Dharma Drum Singapore Holds Refuge Ceremony and Lecture for Its 20th Anniversary

Dharma Drum Singapore, which has relocated six times, held a refuge-taking ceremony at the Kallang Theatre on July 25th afternoon to mark its 20th anniversary, where Dharma Drum Mountain abbot president, Ven. Guo Dong, gave large public lecture on ”Forgive and Let Go, Favourable Conditions Arise!” A video was played showing the history of Dharma Drum Singapore, to celebrate its 20 years of development. Nearly 1,300 people attended the event, including Chen Ziling, former Prime Minister of Singapore Wu Zuodong’s wife, Ven. Guo Jun, abbot of the Mahabodhi Monastery, and Ven. Bhikshuni Yongnan, abbot of Longquan Temple, among other honored guests, jointly witnessing over 100 devotees taking refuge in the Three Jewels.

“Form is not different from emptiness; emptiness is not different from form. Form itself is emptiness; emptiness itself is form. So too are sensation, conception, volition and consciousness,” Ven. Guo Dong quoted the Heart Sutra as saying that all physical phenomena in the world are subject to the four phases: formation, existing, decay, and disappearance; while lives are inseparable from the four kinds of suffering: birth, aging, illness and death. One of the five aggregates, form belongs to physiological and physical phenomena; while sensation, conception, volition, and consciousness are psychological and mental activities. To contemplate life, which is composed of the five aggregates, as being empty is not to deny the value of life itself, but to truly realize the phenomenon of human life.

As Ven. Guo Dong pointed out, visible “form” comes into existence from the formless and markless “emptiness,” while this formless and markless “emptiness” is to be recognized and perceived through the visible “form.” Our mind may have ideas and thoughts, but as long as it does not involve subjective judgment, self-attachment, and emotions, and simply take both emptiness and existence as they are supposed to be, we can then find liberation and ease, free of mental hindrance, and go about cultivating merit and wisdom in a more active manner by making good use of our life.

Meanwhile, he shared a well known dialogue between Han Shan and Shi De, two eminent monks in the Tang Dynasty. Han Shan asked Shi De, “If someone slanders me, bullies me, insults me, mocks me, scorns me, despises me, loathes me and deceives me, then how should I react?” Shi De replied, “You simply tolerate him, yield to him, let him be, shun him, be patient with him, respect him, and ignore him; then, after a few years, see what else he can do.”

In the process of our life and in interpersonal interaction, it is impossible not to encounter blame and criticism. We can see these undesirable situations as tests, and take them as opportunities for us to practice patience, cultivating our blessings while increasing our wisdom. With everything we do and encounter, we use the Ten Kinds of Power as taught by Ven. Guo Dong: Exercise the power to give wholeheartedly and make all possible efforts; cope with all conditions and try our very best. Develop the power to turn pressure into driving forces that assist you. Cultivate the power to bring out your best potential and keep the power to remain persistent. Gather the power to form solidarity; exercise the power to demonstrate vitality. With compassionate vows, there comes power; Let’s encourage each other and join all our power. Then we will realize that whatever people’s intentions are, all conditions and situations can make us a better person, and that eventually time will naturally give us the final answer about gains and losses.

Conducted by Ven. Guo Dong in person, this Refuge ceremony and transmission of the Five Precepts received not only local devotees in Singapore, but also a number of people from China, as well as those who were touched by the solemn atmosphere and thus decided to become a Buddhist on the spot. Zhao Chenyang, who was accompanied by her husband and daughter for the refuge taking, expressed that someone’s comparison of taking the refuge to enrolling a school, and the fact that the Dharma has transformed her husband’s character, from hard and stubborn to humble and soft-spoken, bringing more peace and harmony in the family, prompted her to want to “register” as a “Happy Buddhist.”

“I taste the tea mindfully, cherish the present moment, and experience this once-in-a-lifetime encounter in a heartfelt manner,” senior volunteer Zheng Meijun said. Although unable to hold regular Chan practice activities due to its limited space, Dharma Drum Singapore instead organized this two-hour “Chan in Daily Life” event,whereby people practiced the Eight Form Moving Meditation and enjoyed tea offered as spiritual refreshment. As they become more aware of their physical movement and sensation of relaxation through the practice of the moving meditation, participants were able to slowly calm their minds. Through the mindful practice of the instruction— “Wherever the body is, there the mind is; be aware and relax, relax the whole body”—they experienced the body and mind coming together.

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