The Great Assembly to Liberate All Beings of Water and Land
The first great Liberation Assembly of Water and Land was held by the Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education in Jinshan Township, Taipei County, from 8 to 15 December 2007. DDM believes that the assembly could bring peace, happiness and hope to all sentient beings which have existed in the past, the present and in the future.
This is the greatest embodiment of "the Rising Great Compassion" and "building a pure land on earth". The assembly not only embodies a humanistic spirit, environmental protection, modernity and art, but also inherits elegant Buddhist tradition. The first of such event was recorded 1,500 years ago in Chinese history. Venerable Master Sheng Yen said that this assembly would encourage all individuals to engage in the practice of improving their relationships with others, their surroundings and with nature.
The Liberation Assembly of Water and Land originated from Emperor Liang Wu Di of the Liang Dynasty. The emperor dreamt of a holy venerable who advised, "The suffering of the beings in the lower realm is immense, why don't you make offerings to liberate them from their suffering? Among all good deeds, the accumulation of merits through such services is the greatest."
The emperor invited Chan Master Venerable Bao Zhi to organize this ceremony who in turn spent three years creating the concept and compiling texts for the seven-day assembly. The ritual combines the use of classical Chinese opera texts with ceremonies, such as circumambulation, sutra recitations, Tantric ritual and repentance.
The goal of the ceremony is to invite beings of higher realms to help release the beings in the lower realms from their suffering. It is said that those who participate receive great merit and blessings, even if they do not contribute directly.
A total of ten different halls are built for this assembly. The first hall is known as the General Shrine, while the other nine halls constitute the Outer Shrine. Each hall contains its own ceremony and serves a different purpose.
The General Shrine is the most important of all the other shrines. Only high ranking and assigned monks, and special guests are invited to enter. This is the hall where sentient beings from the lower realms are liberated. Offerings of food and incense, chanting and reciting of mantras, sutras, precepts and repentance texts are constituted in the ceremony.
The Outer Shrine consists of nine halls, all of which are open to the public. Each shrine recites different sutras, such as the Lotus Sutra, the Shurangama Sutra, the Sutra of Golden Light among others. In addition to these sub-rituals, a Tantric ritual is performed at night by all of the invited Venerable's to feed sentient beings from lower realms.
The assembly is one of the grandest Buddhist rituals. Serving all beings is a majestic example of universal compassion. The opportunity to participate in such a meritorious event is most precious, and should be cherished by all. In addition to following these sacred rituals, DDM is also looking forward to educating and caring for the public with Dharma compassion within the rituals.
(reported by Jin Yang/edited by DDM Australia Editing Team)