Three Refuges: Many Thanks

On behalf of myself, my wife, Ling, and her mother, I am writing to express our deepest joy, gratitude and honor to Venerable Shifu Sheng Yen, Venerable Guo Dong, the monks and nuns of Dharma Drum Mountain, and all the laity and supporters making possible the Refuge ceremony on November 2, 2008, at the Nung Chan Monastery in Beitou, Taiwan. We are particularly thankful and appreciative for their great compassion in sharing this event with us.

After checking in the morning, we were seated at the back of the chan hall together. A Dharma supporter choir sang beautifully as everyone was seated, brining a very peaceful and happy feeling to the event. We watched an informative video about Dharma Drum Mountain, as well as an instructional film about how to bow, prostrate, hold the sutra while chanting and prostrating. We also listened to teaching on how to sit in meditation, and we also watched a video of Shifu Sheng Yen on the meaning of taking refuge.

On the Friday before the ceremony, I had gone to the Dharma Drum Mountain in Jinshan, where I met a nun who have me Sheng Yen's "Why Take Refuge in the Three Jewels?," which I had read prior to the Refuge Ceremony. On Sheng Yen's recommendation in that pamphlet, I memorized the verses of the refuge before the ceremony. At the ceremony, once we began the Refuge recitation, Ven. Guo Dong delivered each short phrase to us, which we repeated back in Chinese. Because I had read Sheng Yen's book, I understood the meaning of the phrases I was repeating. I've also been chanting sutras in pinyin (and can speak some Chinese from being married to a Taiwanese), so I was able to clearly repeat the Refuges, vows and other parts of the ceremony in Chinese. I also repeated the Three Refuges and Five Precepts quietly in English after I said them in Chinese. We, of course, also repented of all bad karma, took the four great vows, and transferred the merit. After Refuge, monks and nuns placed a necklace around each participant's neck, and everyone made a red-pocket money donation.

Sheng Yen gave a Dharma talk on the meaning of the Three Refuges. He also spoke about undertaking the path, learning to take insults and stop being the victim. He said we should realize that even when attacked, that we are not the victim when we react with compassion. The idea that we are victims is in our mind, so we should react differently. He also talked about the importance of making offering to the sangha, and being honest with red-pocket money donations.

We were served a vegetarian lunch in lunch boxes, after which we went to pick up our certificates and Dharma names from the information booth as we left. My Dharma name is Chang Yi. There were many other booths taking donations, offering information about DDM and selling items outside. Everyone was very friendly to us.

The sangha and laity at Dharma Drum Mountain in Jinshan also showed us much compassion. On Friday, October 31st, my mother-in-law and I visited there. We parked at the parking lot down the mountain to wait for the bus. We were the only one's there, since we had arrived early, around 9:00 a.m. It was not long before some Dharmas supporters, driving up to the DDM center, stopped and offered us a ride. We met a nun at the information booth that morning, who was very compassionate and friendly. We visited the Wish Granting Guanyin and paid respect to the Buddha in the grand Buddha Hall.

We also had wounderful tasting milk tea and flower tea in the cafe before we left, where we met another very friendly nun running the cafe. And we visited the book and gift store, where I picked up some more of Sheng Yen's writings.

We are now back in Oklahoma safely. I am very excited about progressing further on the path, and developing the daily practice in all ways of life. I am hopeful about the further of the Dharma in American and particularly in Oklahoma, where the Dharma is small but growing. Hopefully, we can now become seeds to grow Dharma joy in the world around us.

Many thanks, gratitude and Dharma joy to everyone at DDM. And many thanks to you, Susan, for helping us attend the ceremony on November 2nd. As you may already know, here as some links to reports about the event.

(by Austin Reams)

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