The Mid-Autumn Mooncake Festival at the Chan Meditation Center, New York
The Mid-Autumn Mooncake Festival held at the Chan Meditation Center in New York on September 13 was described as an event where participants can "appreciate the moon with a Chan mind". Approximately 120 people, including resident monks and nuns of DDRC and CMC, and several monastics , including the Abbess of Grace Gratitude Temple, Venerable Jing Yi, and monastics from Pu Jou Temple attended this event.
The program was introduced by two hosts, Mina Tang and Harry Miller, who talked about moon-related legends in Chinese and English respectively. They included stories such as, "Hou-yi, the God of Archery, Shoots the Sun", "Chang-e Flies to the Moon after Drinking a Magical Elixir", "Rabbit Pounds Medicine in a Mortar on the Moon", and "Wu Gang Chops Down a Laurel Tree".
The Abbot of CMC, Venerable Guo Chan, gave a speech at the beginning of the festival. She mentioned that in the Buddhist sutras, the moon is often used as an analogy to describe the practice. Buddha nature, or the intrinsic nature of all sentient beings, is like the full bright moon, pure and complete. In our daily lives, we may encounter difficulties and hardships and feel sad and down during these times, just like the full moon hidden behind the clouds. Through the right practice, we are able to maintain a calm and joyful mind, like the disappearance of the clouds and the reappearance of the full moon.
For the first time at CMC, a Wishing Fountain, a colored lantern that changes with the running water, was set up in the GuanYin Hall. The evening's program included: the drum team from the DDM NJ Chapter and their performance of "Strike the Dharma Drum", singing by the CMC choir, a Yang style Tai-Chi demonstration and a Tai-Chi fan performance "Butterflies Hovering Over Flowers",and a performance of the traditional Chinese hammered dulcimer or "Yangqin". Members of the Fifty-Five Club of CMC also performed an indigenous Taiwanese dance and song. Stalls were set outside the Center with activities such as a lottery of Shifu's dharma teachings, traditional Chinese opera-style face painting for children and paper folding. The activities even attracted nearby neighbors.
The volunteers of CMC prepared vegetarian foods, moon cakes and pastries. Another of the evening's events was a riddle-guessing game where participants were invited to guess riddles in Chinese and English.
The Abbot of DDRC, Venerable Guo Xing, guided the audience in a moon light Chan meditation. The meditation was in the form of a questions and answers, and to motivate the audience, prizes were offered at the end. He mentioned that the bodhisattva Nagarjuna entered deep samadhi by contemplating on the moon and saw through intrinsic nature, which is emptiness. He encouraged the participants to practice Chan meditation, like Nagarjuna, in the moon-light during this festival. Venerable Guo Xing shared with the audience two methods of comtemplation. One method is to look at the moon, try to remember the image of the moon in one's mind and close the eyes. The object of the contemplation is to try to focus the mind so that the two moons, the one you are contemplating and the real moon, look exactly the same. The other method is like waiting for the bus. Your wandering thoughts keep arising and passing away, just like buses, which come and go while you are waiting at the bus stop, but you pay no attention to them, until the moment the bus you are waiting for shows up. If your concentration is not deep enough, the contemplating moon will be suddenly dim, suddenly bright; suddenly big, suddenly small; suddenly on the left, and suddenly on the right. At this time, you should relax your body and mind. If you practice often, the moon will naturally become stable and clear in your contemplation. Venerable also used the analogy of the palms to explain illusion: Illusions are illusional yet realistic; if you see illusions as real, this seeing itself is illusional. If you see illusions as illusional, this seeing is seeing the truth. So the enlightened ones have no attachments to the phenomena of the world; they are just like the moon, freely traveling in the vast sky.
The Mid-Autumn Festival at the Chan Meditation Center was a unique event where participants learned Chan practice through play, entertainment, and meditation. Much thanks to the residential Sangha and all the volunteers of CMC!
(Report by: Billing& Lydia)