Innovations in Morning and Evening Services in Modern Day MonasteriesIn Buddhist monasteries, morning and evening services traditionally last one to two hours. As monastic lifestyles change in today's world, the content and length of morning and evening services have undergone some adjustments. Take the example of the morning service at Dharma Drum Mountain. It starts at six o'clock in the morning, and begins with chanting of the Shurangama Dharani, is followed by recitation of the Heart Sutra and "Maha-Prajna-Paramita" three times, and ends with the Four Great Vows, Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels, and Transfer of Merits. The evening service consists of recitation of the Amitabha Sutra during the odd days alternating with the Eighty Eight Buddhas Great Repentance in the even days, followed by the ritual of Mount Meng Food Offering, the chanting of the Heart Sutra, the Pure Land Rebirth Dharani, and ending with the Four Great Vows, the Verse of Admonition of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels, and Transfer of Merit. The morning and evening services last forty minutes each.
In DDM, even during the intensive Chan retreats, although practitioners are required to keep Noble Silence, chanting in morning and evening services continues to take place. During Chan retreats, the center of morning and evening services is the recitation of the Great Compassion Dharani. The morning service consists of reciting the Great Compassion Dharani and the Heart Sutra one time, "Maha-Prajna-Paramita" three times, the Ten Great Aspirations of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, and ending with Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels and Transfer of Merits. In the evening service, the Great Compassion Dharani is followed by the ritual of Mount Meng Food Offering, the Heart Sutra, the Four Great Vows, The Verse of Admonition of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels, and Transfer of Merits. Even during intensive seven-day Chan retreats or seven-day Amitabha Buddha's name recitation Chan retreats, morning and evening services still continue.
Consistent Morning and Evening Recitation is the Foundation of Dharma Practice
Master Sheng Yen once told his monastic disciples, "For a novice, foremost is to familiarize oneself with dignified demeanors in daily life and liturgy recitation." Only through familiarity with the contents and meaning of morning and evening services can one cultivate proper monastic deportment, know basic Buddhadharma, possess the power of assimilating people into Buddhism, and eventually be able to spread the Dharma and deliver sentient beings.
Participation in morning and evening services in the Buddha hall not only is the foundation of Dharma practice for monastics, but also their regular daily practice. In the morning service, with the blessing power of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, one can kindle a diligent mind. In the evening service, while reciting the Amitabha Sutra and doing the Mount Meng food offering ritual, one can not only develop aspirations to be reborn in the Blissful Pure Land of Amitabha, but also generate compassion toward sentient beings. Therefore, morning and evening services are Buddhist practices that are beneficial both for living beings as well as for the deceased. Master Sheng Yen once said: "Monastics live in the monastery, keep themselves far away from the secular world and are not able to achieve enlightenment in a single lifetime. However, as long as they persistently carry out liturgy recitations day in and day out and pray for the well-being of the society, country, humanity and all sentient beings, they have already contributed enormously to the world."
Daily Practice Q & A: Q4: What is the difference between preliminary and daily practice?
Resource: Issue 326 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Issue 326 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Translation: Shujen Yeh (葉姝蓁)
Editing: YKL, Keith Brown