Buddha's Birthday Celebration & Gratitude to Mother Earth
This year, Buddha’s birthday May 12th happened to fall on the second Sunday of May, which was Mother’s Day. Chan Meditation Center held a series of events to celebrate this special day.
In the morning before the Buddha’s Bathing Ceremony started, there was a refuge taking ceremony led by Abbot Venerable Guo-Xing.
Seven people took the refuge on this special day. It was a meaningful choice to take the refuge on Buddha’s Birthday; it symbolizes that we can all become Buddha once we are awakened to our own Buddha nature. Ven. Guo-Xing explained the meaning of taking the refuge and the five precepts. After taking the refuge, the newly registered Buddhists showed great joy when Fashi congratulated them and encouraged them to participate in Dharma practices.
The Buddha’s Bathing Ceremony began immediately after the refuge taking ceremony. Venerable Guo Chuan first explained the meaning of the Buddha Bathing Ceremony and introduced the Buddha Bathing Gatha: “We now come up to bathe Tathagatas. For purity, wisdom, dignity, merit and virtue. May the five-fold polluted sentient beings be rid of impurity. And all realize the pure entity of Tathagata.” Ven. Guo Chuan reminded us that when bathing the statue of Buddha, we should also repent our wrong doings at the same time, vow to uproot all evil deeds, to cultivate all good deeds, and to deliver all sentient beings. The Chan Hall on the first floor was filled with people attending the ceremony. In the peaceful and dignifying chanting, everyone took their turn to come up to bathe the Buddha. To pay respect to Mother’s Day and the mother earth that nurtures all beings, CMC also prepared flowers and soils from the center for guests who would like to make offering to the Buddha. Venerable encouraged people to bring back the flowers and soils from CMC, and after returning home, we are to continue nurturing them with appreciation and gratitude. At the same time, nurture our own mind, appreciate and make offerings to all sentient beings on earth.
After the Buddha’s bathing ceremony, the highly anticipated Dharma talk "Mind, Buddha, and Sentient Beings One in –Essence” was delivered by the Abbot Ven. Guo-Xing. Venerable asked us: “During the Buddha Bathing Ceremony, were you bathing the statue of Buddha, or were you bathing your own mind?” Ven. Guo-Xing continued to explain: everyone is Buddha, and all sentient beings have the potential to be awakened. However sentient beings are used to treat their body as themselves, but Buddha has realized that the body is merely a tool. Awakened people are not afraid of death because they know that there is no such thing as death. The body may perish one day but the mind does not. If we understand this concept, we may start to comprehend late Chan Master Sheng Yen’s last verse:
“Busy with nothing, growing old.
Within emptiness, crying, laughing.
Intrinsically, there is no ‘I’.
Life and death, thus cast aside.”
Only if we stop taking our body as ourselves will we fully experience the verse and become enlightened. To conclude the dharma talk, Ven. Guo-Xing used his famous example of the memory of your mother is not your real mother and once again reminded us not to treat the image as the real thing.
After a delicious vegetarian lunch prepared by volunteers, the special performances were brought to us by the CMC choir and the Mind Theater. We were bathed in harmonious music and lively performances that afternoon. The last event for Buddha’s Birthday Celebration was Contemplating the Earth which was led by Abbot Ven. Guo-Xing. Venerable led us to prostrate to the earth and taught us that the earth is just like our mother. Everything we eat, use, live comes from the earth; it keeps on giving and never asks anything for return. We should appreciate and be grateful for the earth; furthermore, we should try to learn from the earth. Learn to be selfless and learn to make offerings without expecting returns as the mother earth. Prostrating to the mother earth brought a great sense of gratitude in our mind and the whole ceremony ended in a calming and peaceful atmosphere.
(By Angela Yu)