Celebration for the Launch of the Largest Lotus Bell in the World at DDM
The launch of the Lotus Bell is significant as Dharma Drum Mountain is the centre of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and advocates 'Protecting the Spiritual Environment' and strives for peace for humanity in the world.
The day of 4 December, 2006, was the most blessed and remarkable day as there were approximately 10 000 participants at the ceremony for the launch of the Lotus Bell at Dharma Drum Mountain for Buddhist Education in Jinshan Township, Taipei County.
The Lotus Bell, having taken one and a half years until reaching completion, is finally placed in the Lotus Bell Park at the foot of Bell Mountain of DDM World Center for Buddhist Education. It was manufactured by Oigo Works Company Ltd., a company with over a hundred years of bell casting experience in Japan. Situated next to Lotus Bell Park is the Temporary Quarters which has been the heart of DDM's reception activities and spiritual practices for sixteen years.
The ceremony began with the purification rituals conducted by the DDM Sangha and then by the Japanese Sangha in the Lotus Bell Park. Venerable Master Sheng Yen, the founder of DDM, Venerable Guo Dong, the Abbot President of DDM, Venerable Hui Min, the Rector of DDM, and Venerable Guo Hui, the Deputy Abbot President of DDM, attended and participated in the ritual 'Sounding the Lotus Bell'.
The bell's far-reaching sounds reflect the willingness of Dharma Drum Mountain in taking up the role of spreading the orthodox Dharma and awakening people.
Right after the Lotus Bell was sounded, the sounds of loud and dedicated chanting of the Buddhist scriptures by pilgrims, reaching ten thousand in numbers, permeated throughout the entire DDM World Center for Buddhist Education. Whilst chanting they followed the center's pathways with their palms joined. As a result, the compassion of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Guanyin) was remarkably delivered and practiced.
The Lotus Bell currently hangs on the Lotus Bell Tower which has 28 stone steps in the three storey tower, representing the Lotus Sutra's 28 chapters and essential teachings. The tower has a long ridged beam from which the 25 ton bell and a six meter long red pine wood bell mallet, that required four to six people to operate, are suspended. Furthermore there is an acoustic trap under the bell that enhances the acoustics.
Designed in Tang style and made out of bronze, the Lotus Bell weighs approximately 25 000 kg. It is 4.5 m in height and 2.6 m in diameter. Engraved on both surfaces, inside and outside of the bell, are over 70 000 Chinese characters of the Lotus Sutra and the Great Compassion Mantra. Also engraved on the bell is the image of the Many-Jeweled Pagoda with the two Buddhas sitting together. The Sutra, Mantra and Image were chosen to reflect the spirit of the Avalokitesvara and Mahayana Buddhism's bodhisattva path.
Venerable Master Sheng Yen said that bells are important instruments of the Dharma in Buddhism and are prevalent on Buddhist temples in China. Moreover, they are closely associated to Buddhist music and scripture chanting. It is a tradition in Buddhist temples to sound the bell prior to beating the drum at dawn - to signify arising, and awake all sentient beings - and conversely at dusk.
Thus, Venerable Master Sheng Yen said that he hopes the clear and far-reaching sounds of the Lotus Bell will spread Buddhist wisdom and the compassion of the Avalokitesvara throughout the world, nurturing and blessing the souls of all sentient beings.
The Master also said that each and every sounding of the bell signifies the hearing and reciting of the Lotus Sutra and Great Compassion Mantra. The Lotus Sutra points out that all sentient beings, regardless of their nature, social status and gender, will attain Buddhahood one day.
Such a concept of deliverance, which symbolizes tolerance and acceptance and forsakes not one single sentient being, is what DDM actively promotes with great efforts. Therefore, DDM's idea of "Protecting the Spiritual Environment" is not a fantasy, but rather, is practical. According to the Master, this practice makes one truly rely on oneself.
The Lotus Bell is not only significant in its own right, but also reflects the complexity of modern manufacturing. The DDM Sangha spent more than one year searching and comparing many different casting companies in China, Japan and Korea. Finally in May 2004, they decided to commission Oigo Works Company Ltd. in Japan for the casting of the bell.
Venerable Master Sheng Yen even went to Japan to attend the first test of sounding and inspection in August 2005. In January 2006, the casting was completed and a ceremony was conducted for the bell to be transported back to DDM Taiwan. On 24 December 2006, the Lotus Bell was officially in use.
Next time when you come to DDM World Center for Buddhist Education, please do not forget to visit the Lotus Bell in the Lotus Park with humbleness and faith and sow the seed of compassion in your heart.
(Reported and photos taken by Jin Yang/Edited by Jessica Chow)