Reuniting with the Dharma across seven thousand kilometers

It started sixteen years ago when late Master Sheng Yen went to Moscow to propagate the Dharma, a Dharma affinity was formed. Sixteen years later, an application for ash burial from 7500 kilometers away was finally fulfilled during Mid-Autumn Festival through the kind efforts of many. It is a lesson on life education; a reunion with the Dharma.

25 student monks and faculty members from DDM Sangha University took Tamara's ashes to the Eco-friendly Memorial Garden for burial, fulfilling the last wish of this future Dharma brother.

On September 15, the very last day of the Mid-Autumn holidays, the Jinshan Eco-friendly Memorial Garden on Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education was transformed into a life’s education classroom. At the ash burial ceremony of Tamara Yazikova, a practitioner from the Wujimen Martial Arts School Chinese Cultural Studying Center in Russia, 25 students and faculties from the DDM Sangha University were given an opportunity to participate in a life lesson on “Green Farewell.”

Divided into groups, twelve monastic students, including both Venerable Yan Yao (演要法師)and Postulant Yan Shi (演誓行者) from Russia, gently poured her ashes back into the earth then offered a flower, finally covering with handfuls of soil. Although her family members were not present, there were nevertheless more than twenty fellow monastics and postulants who bid her farewell.

Vowing to become a Buddhist monastic in future life

Born in 1961, Tamara passed away in June after a short illness, aged 58.

In 2003, she participated in the seven-day retreat led by Master Sheng-Yen in Moscow. Working at a publishing house back then, she had to communicate a lot with colleagues, although she is quiet by nature. Therefore, when she learned that noble silence would be required during the retreat, she cried out "Great! That's exactly what I need!"

Since the retreat, Tamara practice Chan meditation without cease. She then volunteered to take up the responsibility of general affairs at the Wujimen Martial Arts School. She also gradually built up a deep connection with DDM due to her contributions in the arrangement of a pilgrimage trip to DDM for the Society and DDM monastics going over to Moscow for retreats.

Previously, she had already paid two visits to DDM, firstly in January 2018 along with members of the pilgrimage trip, then in March this year to participate in the bilingual seven-day retreat led by Gilbert Gutierrez, a Dharma heir of late Master Sheng Yen. When asking for instructions from monastics, she shared that she once felt that her "body disappeared" while meditating. As a diligent practitioner, she never missed out on any opportunity to learn from the Sangha to clarify her questions in Chan practice and Buddhism.

“She vowed to become a Buddhist monastic in her future life!” said Venerable Yan Yao, a sophomore at DDM Sangha University. Tamara once asked him, via email, to help enquire on how to fulfill this aspiration. And when she learned that Shifu once taught people to fulfill their aspirations by chanting the Mantra of Bodhisattva Cundi (準提咒), she too began to chant diligently the mantra, persisting for a very long time.

Fulfilling the last wish of a future Dharma brother

After Tamara passing away, her daughter decided to have her mother's ashes buried in the Eco-friendly Memorial Garden at DDM, perhaps due to the deep impressions Tamara had from her previous visits there.

Tamara, a Chan practitioner from Russia (back, second to the right), vowed to become a Buddhist monastic in future life after attending a seven-day retreat led by late Master Sheng Yen. Venerable Yan Yao (back, second to the left) and Postulant Yan Shi (front, kneeling)

Postulant Yan Shi, a close friend of Tamara as well as a freshman at DDM Sangha University this year, then proceeded to apply for the necessary documents, contact customs and the Embassy, and hand-carried her ashes on his flight from Moscow, via China, all the way to DDM in Taiwan.

Although there have been overseas application in the past for ash burial in the Eco-friendly Memorial Garden, they have all come from English-speaking countries. Tamara’s application was indeed the very first one from Russia. Fortunately, the niece of Zheng, Wen Lie (鄭文烈), the Deputy Manager of the Memorial Garden, happened to be a graduate majoring in Russian language, and she volunteered to translate the death certificate, crematory permit and other important documents. Venerable Chang Qi (常啟法師), Director of Academic Affairs of Sangha University, also accompanied Venerable Yan Yao and Postulant Yan Shi to the New Taipei Municipal Funeral and Interment Management Office to apply for the ash burial, trying their best to help fulfill the last wish of this future Dharma brother.

Taking the opportunity of Tamara's ash burial, Sangha University invited Venerable Chang Zhe (常哲法師), Director of the Social Care Center, to present a lecture on “Let the love of life return to earth.” In this lecture, he led monastic students to understand life and death from a Buddhist perspective, the current funeral and interment situation in Taiwan, as well as late Master Sheng Yen’s promotion of Buddhist memorial ceremony and eco-natural burial, and his aspirations to donate the the Jinshan Eco-friendly garden grounds to the local council to implement this practice..

Traditionally, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for reunion. Tamara's farewell has brought about the reunion of all the participants with the Dharma, enriching one another's life of merits and wisdom, and furthermore manifesting the fact that death need not be faced with sorrow or joy. Just like the weather on the day of the burial, it was neither windy, rainy nor sunny.

Text: Liang, Jin-man (梁金滿) Dharma Drum Monthly
Photos: Lee, Fan (李東陽)
Translation: Chang, Cheng-yu (張振郁)
Editing: DDM Editorial Team; John Wu (吳俊宏)

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