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2014 Homecoming Dharma Gathering: Fulfill a Vow for {CMC Expansion Project}

DDM (Dharma Drum Mountain) founder Chan Master Sheng Yen (Shifu) once said "Don't worry about having a monastery, but keep a monastery in mind. If we keep practicing diligently, there will be the (physical) monastery naturally. "It is with great joy we share with you the progress of Chan Meditation Center's expansion project.

On November 2nd, 2014, Chan Meditation Center held a groundbreaking ceremony for the expansion of the practice center monastery, a 3-storey house at Corona Ave., Elmhurst, New York. The project is expected to complete in 2016 summer.

The ceremony started at 10 a.m. with a purifying ritual, Ven. Guo Dong, Abbot President of DDM, sprinkled fragrant water around the expansion site. This ritual is a Buddhism tradition to clean the surrounding, and clear the mind. Then the monastics led the Great Compassion Mantra chanting, joined by volunteers, lay practitioners, and visitors. The Great Compassion Mantra represents Guan Yin's (Avalokiteśvara bodhisattva) vows to benefit all sentient beings, to liberate them from suffering, and to let them eventually attain Buddha-hood.

After the chanting the groundbreaking began, those attending the symbolic first shoveling included Abbot President of DDM Ven. Guo Dong, Abbot of Chan Meditation Center and Dharma Drum Retreat Center Ven. Guo Xing, Chairman of honorary Board of Director Mr. Charles Huang, CMC Board of Director Nancy Bonardi, DDMBA Board of Director Ms. Lily Kung, and Northeast Regional Coordinator Ms. Judy Cheng.

It's a bit windy in the early morning when the event started and Abbot President Ven. Guo Dong commented that "The wind will spread the Dharma everywhere". Director of Chan Meditation Center Ven. Chang Hwa commented that "The 3 initial shoveling represent that we will follow the selfless, compassionate vows of Guan Yin, and devote ourselves to delivering endless sentient beings to the pure land".

Following the ceremony at 11 a.m., there was a special Dharma talk by Abbot President Ven. Guo Dong, he said that the physical monastery may go through the process of formation and decay, however what keeps DDM community growing is the will to "uplift the character of humanity and build a pure land on earth”. The expansion of Chan Meditation Center is not only the enhancement for hardware and space, but also an expansion of Buddhist pure land. Abbot President Ven. Guo Dong also shared Master Sheng Yen's teaching for bodhisattva practices, Master Sheng Yen wrote "How to attain Buddha-hood? Prioritize bodhi-mind. What is bodhi-mind? Start with altruism."

At noon delicious vegetarian lunch was served, volunteer Ms. Lin Wen mentioned that after the expansion project, we will have elevators and more spacious dining area to accommodate more visitors.

The afternoon session started around 2 p.m., with Ms. Ya Han Chang and Mr. Anderson Cheng from Chan Meditation Center Choir group singing "Water, Moon and Mind", a soothing Buddhism song. Abbot President Ven. Guo Dong awarded honorary Board of Director member certificates to members that contributed a lot to the expansion project. A lady, who received the award on behalf of her passing sister, told the audience "My sister has been supporting the center all her life, and now I want to continue the support for her."

A short clip featuring the Chan Meditation Center history was shown; we got to learn Shifu's humble beginning in US: at first Shifu didn't have enough funds, and had to walk in cold NYC winter snow to look for abandoned furniture; little by little he rented an auto repair place to start the center, taught meditation classes, started the Chan Magazine, and eventually with the help of followers, he was able to create the current Chan Meditation Center on 99-56 Corona Ave. The audience was moved to tears after learning the difficulty Shifu has went through to spread Mahayana Buddhism in the West. Ms. Rikki Arsher, one of Master Sheng Yen's first follower in US, shared about how she met and practiced with Shifu. She remembered her first meditation class vividly, "Shifu told us to bring a notebook, every word Shifu said, it's for our benefit." She recalled how Shifu encouraged her to do her Master's degree. "Shifu has changed my life."

The day concluded with a tea and fruit session, everyone shared their precious practice stories, their vision for a better Chan Meditation Center, and their wish for a bright prospect of Mahayana Buddhism in the West.

(By Xinyuan Wang)

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