The 7th “Lay Bodhisattva Precepts Retreat” at DDM New York: 104 Practitioners Joyfully Receive the Precepts

To carry forward Master Sheng Yen’s great vow of spreading Chinese Buddhism, DDM’s Chan Meditation Center in New York regularly holds a lay Bodhisattva Precepts ceremony for both Eastern and Western practitioners. On May 22nd, the Chan Meditation Center held its seventh lay Bodhisattva Precepts ceremony, which lasted for four days and three nights. The Abbot President of DDM, Venerable Guo Dong, the Deputy Abbot of DDM, Venerable Guo Pin, and the Abbot of Chan Meditation Center and Dharma Drum Retreat Center, Venerable Guo Shiin, were all present and together presided over the retreat as Bodhisattva Fashi.

“One who has precepts to violate is a Bodhisattva, while one who has no precepts to disobey lives without direction, without spirituality;” this quote embodies the principle behind the lay practice of keeping precepts. The purpose of receiving the Bodhisattva Precepts is to cultivate the spirit of a Bodhisattva within oneself -- that is, to eradicate defilements from the mind, to practice meritorious behavior, and ultimately to benefit all sentient beings. The participants began by watching a Dharma talk on the precepts by Master Sheng Yen, which served to encourage and give them a basis within the spirit of the precepts. In order to better serve the participants, who hailed from all over the world, the retreat and ceremony were conducted both in Chinese and in English.

The three Bodhisattva Venerables led the participants during the traditional ceremony of receiving precepts. After formally receiving the precepts, a practitioner makes vows to uphold the precepts, learn from them, and practice them diligently in their own lives. Diligent practice of the precepts bolsters one’s personal practice, helping them to resolve their own and others’ sufferings with wisdom and compassion. The path of the Bodhisattva is maintained by the earnest upkeep of the precepts.

Later, the Abbot President of DDM, Venerable Guo Dong, shared with the participants the mission of Dharma Drum Mountain: to elevate the spiritual and moral quality of the individual and to build a pure land on earth. By dedicating themselves to precepts and practice and emulating the spirit of the Buddha, DDM and its followers aim to uplift and improve the condition of humanity as whole. Educating ourselves and others and practicing compassion in all things, the practitioner devotes their energies to the accomplishment of these goals. Guo Dong encouraged the followers of DDM, saying that all, no matter their past or present situation, could take vows and walk the path of Bodhisattva.

Among the many participants in this retreat were those who had travelled far and wide to attend. There were participants from 12 different states in America; some had even traveled from Canada, Taiwan, and China to be a part of this rare ceremony. Assisting the retreat were 29 volunteers who themselves took vows to look after and take care of the participants. After receiving the precepts, one participant, Wang Yiwun, shared that the serene atmosphere of the Dharma center, combined with the caring of venerables, the diligence of the participants, and the wholehearted compassion of the volunteers together quieted body and mind and granted a feeling of peace. Wang Yiwun went on to say that this atmosphere of caring attention and support, especially the instruction given by Master Sheng Yen, was like parents taking care of children: sometimes it was humorous and light-hearted, and sometimes it imparted an important lesson. In a concluding talk, Master Sheng Yen encouraged the participants to keep the Bodhisattva’s vow and used examples and stories from daily life to help the practitioners to walk the path in their own lives. From receiving the precepts to walking the path of the Bodhisattva, all involved in the ceremony were touched and inspired to keep the Bodhisattva path in their own lives.

Translated by Frances Liu (劉珮如)
Edited by Matthew Stoia

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