Produced by Sheng Yen Education Foundation, Master Sheng Yen, a documentary on the subject of Dharma Drum Mountain's founder Master Sheng Yen's life, premiered on August 30, 2020, after more than 2 years in the making. More than 70 charitable screenings took place in Taiwan drawing over 40,000 viewers who relived the story of the Master's extraordinary contributions to the world, even overcoming the struggles and challenges he experienced in his life. The originally scheduled screening overseas was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As a consequence, the foundation organized online screenings from December 20, 2020, to January 3, 2021 in 13 countries including the US, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia. Invited to this special event were DDM's overseas volunteers, devotees, and their families and others interested in learning about how Master Sheng Yen spent his entire life devoted to the practice and propagation ...
On November 26, 2020, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Richmond Integrated Hospice Palliative Care Team held an Interfaith Hospice Palliative Care conference from 3:00 to 4:00 pm. This online conference was part of a series of educational courses for health care workers with about 40 participants. Ven. Chang Wu, director of Vancouver Chan Meditation Centre, Rev. Maggie Watts-Hammond of United Church of Canada, and Fr. Robert K Wong of Roman Catholic Church shared religious based ideas, beliefs, rituals, and practices on palliative care and hospice, and finally, a Q&A session with health care workers. Rev. Matthew Heyn, as moderator of this conference, invited Ven. Chang Wu to expound on the belief and attitude towards death from a Buddhist perspective. Ven. Chang Wu explained that Buddhists do not regard death as the end of life; this period of life is part of a journey in our countless periods of life, with each period of life having its own meaning and purpose. Thus, Buddhist hospice palliative care aims to help patients move forward to the next life peacefully. Next, Rev. Maggie explained that Christians view death as homecoming and to rest in peace in God's embrace; there is neither loneliness nor fear with God's companionship along the way. She also emphasized that in the final stages of life, hospice or palliative care is irreplaceable. Fr. Wong agreed that death is the beginning of a new life and believed that God who created the world is the only one who is eternal. The three keynote speakers also elaborated on the practice of hospice palliative care. Buddhists guide the patients to let go of all attachments and to chant the name of Amitabha Buddha so that they will be at peace; with the compassionate vows of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas, they will be reborn in the Pure Land. Those with strong foundation in Chan meditation can do contemplative visualization as an alternative when facing death. Similar to Buddhist end-of-life chanting, Christians and Catholics pray, read scriptures, or sing hymns. The difference is that Christian or Catholic dying patients undertake confession and repentance in front of a priest or father to achieve salvation from God in order to enter heaven. Although differ in practices, all three religions place the same emphasis on death and provide religious rituals or spiritual care to the dying as well as comfort to their family. There were many questions about Buddhism in the final Q&A. Ven. Chang Wu took this opportunity to clarify the misconception that some Buddhists have when refusing painkillers, thinking that enduring pain could eliminate past bad karma. She also explained in detail regarding the Buddhist practice of not touching a dead person's body in the first 8 hours after death. This hour-long conference presented an opportunity for attendees to understand the similarities and differences between Buddhism and Christianity in the teachings and practices of hospice palliative care. Text & Photos: Dharma Drum Vancouver Centre Translation: Hsiao Chen-An Editing: Yeh Shujen (葉姝蓁); Leefah Thong
During the 14th Great Compassion Water and Land Service from November 21 to 28, 2020, Dharma Drum Mountain Hong Kong Centre organized its first Food Offering to Sentient Beings in the Six Destinies, a ritual that signifies how the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas compassionately deliver sentient beings from suffering to liberation. The ritual is meant to offer food and the teaching of the Dharma to sentient beings in the six destinies of existence. Apart from practicing giving, its main purpose is to invite beings in the ghost realm to listen to Dharma talks, helping them to be delivered through the power of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas' compassionate vows. On the concluding day of the service, volunteers worked together to deliver the food presented in the ritual, including rice, fruits, and other groceries, to various community centers, to be given to low-income families and those in need. DDM Hong Kong Centre hoped to bring loving care and warm blessings to the public, thereby inspiring others to also spread kindness in society. Prior to the service, the pandemic had brought uncertainties and challenges to the preparation work. It was thanks to the volunteers' help that these challenges were overcome, allowing the service to take place as scheduled. Embodying the spirit of equal and universal giving—the central idea of the Water and Land Service, this ritual aimed to give provisions to ghostly beings and those caused by the pandemic, as well as to send out blessings to the whole world and express care to low-income families. Also, it helped build up karmic affinity between the Three Jewels, sentient beings, donors, volunteers, and recipients of the aid. Text & Photo: Dharma Drum Mountain Hong Kong Centre Translation: Hsiao Chen-An Editing: Chang, Chia-Cheng (張家誠); Keith Brown
Due to the pandemic, many people have lost their jobs, and, in the process, financial support for their families. In response to this situation, on December 16th, 2020, Chan Meditation Center (CMC), New York, under the name of Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association, donated the funds received from the Water and Land Dharma Service and Winter Charity Initiative to the food bank in New York and the refugee camps and domestic violence centers in St. Louis. CMC hopes that, in spite of the impact of the epidemic, families in difficulty will still have enough food and supplies to survive the cold winter during the Christmas and New Year holidays As part of the Winter Charity Initiative, CMC normally donates the food prepared for the Food Offering ritual in Water and Land Service to the food bank at the end of the year. Since 2017, CMC has additionally started to donate the remaining funds of the service to the refugee camps and domestic violence centers in St. Louis. However, in 2020, besides donating the funds received from the service and the Winter Charity Initiative to the recipients in St. Louis, CMC also decided to donate part of the funds to the food bank instead of donating food directly, to lower the risk of infections during food delivery during the severe pandemic. This way, the food bank would take charge of the food purchase and delivery. It is estimated that there will be 200,000 meals provided to families in need. Ven. Chang Hwa, the Director of Chan Meditation Center, stated, "In 2020, the US has been impacted massively by the pandemic, and everyone is facing an unprecedented challenge. We appreciate that people of all walks of life contributed generously, putting empathy into action so that fewer people would suffer from hunger in the cold winter." Text: Chan Meditation Center Translation: Hsiao Chen-An Editing: Keith Brown
As the year 2020 draws to a close and the COVID pandemic continues to prevail, many people around the world are suffering due to the shortage of supplies that could help prevent the spread of infections. To meet this need, Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association (DDMBA), together with Four Noble Truths USA, donated 50,000 disposable three-layer face masks to Chit Myit Tar Foundation, in the hopes that the pandemic will subside and the world will be restored to peace and health. The benefactors of the masks include Myanmar National Health Laboratory, Department of Medical Research, Yangon General Hospital, East Yangon General Hospital, South Akkalapa Women & Children Hospital, North Okkalapa Hospital, to name but a few. DDMBA expresses its gratitude for all of the donations it has received in support of this project. Text & Photos: Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association Translation: Hsiao Chen-An Editing: Greg Aiani; Keith Brown
A Historical Moment at the National Central Library:
Donation of the Complete Works of Master Sheng Yen
"The Complete Works of Master Sheng Yen" is the collection of the Master's lifelong practice and studies. It is also a condensed history of the development of modern Buddhism and Buddhist Studies. On December 1st, 2020, a donation ceremony took place at the National Central Library (NCL), where DDM's Abbot President Ven. Guo Huei presented a full set of the "2020 Memorial Edition of The Complete Works of Master Sheng Yen" to Director General, Tseng Shu-Hsien, who received the books on behalf of NCL. "A bodhisattva saves others from hardship and suffering; a great bodhisattva takes on hardship and suffering itself." "With compassion, you'll have no enemies; with wisdom, no vexations." "Even with a single breath remaining, hope is unlimited." "With peace in mind, you'll have peace in life." Ven. Guo Huei by quoting Master Sheng Yen's verses, and further stated that although the Master passed away 11 years ago, his works and wisdoms are still powerful today, providing social stability and peace . Abbot President especially expressed gratitude to NCL for sending the Complete Works to more than 600 libraries worldwide and NCL's 34 Taiwan Resource Center for Chinese Studies (TRCCS) around the world via the network of International Publication Exchange. By making the Complete Works available to the world, it's expected that the Humanistic Pure Land and Chan Buddhism which Master Sheng Yen had always been promoting will be spread everywhere, with resources provided for Chinese speakers to read and study. Ven. Guo Sian, Managing Director of Dharma Drum Mountain Cultural Center, mentioned how DDM and the National Central Library came to be connected. It all started in the 3rd Chung-Hwa International Conference held by Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies 23 years ago. The conference took place at National Central Library and the former DirectorGeneral Zeng Ji-Cyun is now the President of DDM Community University. Ven. Guo Sian expressed appreciation to the former and current Director Generals. Through this precious and wonderful connection, Master Sheng Yen's wish to spread Dharma to the world has become a reality. Director General Tseng Shu-Hsien remarked, "What touches me the most is that the editorial team made footnotes and reference sources. This was surely not an easy task, but it enables readers to make further use of the references." Peng Jyun-Heng, Political Deputy Minister of Ministry of Culture and a faithful reader, praised the Complete Works for its usefulness, sharing that it is an important collection that has answered a lot of his questions. Peng has often applied what he has learned into his daily life to cultivate wisdom and bring hope to life. Zeng Ji-Cyun said that many people respect Buddhist scriptures; however, Master Sheng Yen interpreted the central ideas and concepts of Buddhadharma with modern terms and expressions instead of Buddhist terminologies. the Complete Works is thus accessible and useful to everyone, becoming a great resource to modern society. Among those attending the ceremony were Liou Jhong-Ji, the leading narrator of audio version of "the Complete Works", Cai Qing-yan, Chairman of Sheng Yen Education Foundation, Jhong Ming-Ciou, Secretary-General of DDM Humanities and Social Improvement Foundation, Ke Yao-bi, Chairman of DDM Social Welfare and Charity Foundation, and many other special guests who came together to witness this historical joyful moment. Published in October, the "2020 Memorial Edition of The Complete Works of Master Sheng Yen" is a compilation of the Master's wisdom from his lifelong practice experiences. The main reason behind this edition came from the Master's instruction before he passed away. During the editing process, the previous version was re-edited, amended, and supplemented with related articles and references, for the benefit and convenience of future readers and researchers. The 2020 Memorial Edition is regarded as the final version of the collection. Text: Chen Mei-Jyuan(陳玫娟); Lin Ya-Ying(林雅櫻) Photos: Li Dong-Yang(李東陽); Lin Ya-Ying(林雅櫻) Translation: Hsiao Chen-An Editing: Angela Chang; Keith Brown
The 14th Great Compassion Water and Land Service 2020: Nurturing Peace of mind, Gaining Access to the Pure Land
The 14th Great Compassion Water and Land Service in 2020 was held at Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education, Taiwan, from November 21 to November 28. This event was centered on the idea of "humanity," according to Ven. Guo Kai, a member of the preparatory team. The event took place in assembly halls spanning 45 branches worldwide, in addition to providing the option to join the ceremony online. During the event, every participant learned how to take good care of their mind through their practice, as an effort to help purify society. This is why Master Sheng Yen advocated and promoted this service. To align with the government's prevention measures, only half of the usual number of seats were provided and devotees were encouraged to attend live-streamed assemblies at DDM's branches or at home. For this purpose, DDM provided an optimized live-streamed platform and online liturgy, among other user-friendly services. In addition, for the first time, DDM prolonged the time available to replay recorded live videos, to make it easier for people in areas severely hit by the pandemic to attend the assembly asynchronously. On the last day, when the Sending off the Sages ritual was held, Abbot President Ven. Guo Huei led the sangha, attendees, and volunteers to make a vow to apply the calming power they had attained during the group practice in their daily life. He also announced DDM's annual theme for the year 2021—"Peace and Ease"—and encouraged everyone to cultivate compassion and wisdom by continuously applying the Buddhist methods of practice, thereby learning to care for themselves and others in the face of impermanence. "As impermanence is an ordinary fact of life, we should face it with an ordinary mind." The closing short film compared our life to a journey, and pointed out that impermanence is never absent in our life. If we can take good care of our mind, then "everything we see is a scenic view; everywhere we go is a pure land." Ven. Guo Huei quoted Master Sheng Yen's talk of encouragement during the SARS pandemic, when he remarked, "Most of the time we have erroneous views, and have inverted ways of thinking: we tend to take pain as happiness, and the impermanent as permanent. We regard this fragile life of ours and the environment as everlasting and unchanging, and that's why we have fear and a sense of insecurity. Therefore, we should face it, and acknowledge it. With this kind of wisdom, we'll no longer have fear and will be able to live in calm and peace at all times." "Ven. Huei Min explained the Dharma by incorporating scientific knowledge. I found it very beneficial and useful. It inspired me to reflect on the way to live in peace during the pandemic," said Guo Liyi, a devotee from Hong Kong who participated in the assembly via the internet. Wu Xuehua, a devotee from Toronto, Canada, attended the group practice online as a way to pray for the people suffering from the pandemic. Zhang Sumei, who joined the assembly at Ziyun Monastery, Kaohsiung, expressed her gratitude to the preparatory team for enabling remote attendees to feel as if they were on site. "Practicing in a group setting is very different from practicing alone, especially when the sound of group chanting hit my heart. It was so touching," said Xiao Huijuan, who attended the live-streamed assembly at Nung Chan Monastery, Taipei. "Dharma Drum Mountain is like a school designed for Bodhisattva practice!" By applying the method learned from Ven. Guo Xing, DDM's Chan Hall master, Chen Xinyou, who participated in the General Hall, focused on how to live at every moment and therefore felt grateful for the teachings of the Three Jewels. During this session of Water and Land Service, there were some 12,000 volunteers. In addition, 25,000 people attended the live-streamed assembly in DDM's branches worldwide, and, for the first time, more than 500,000 people attended online around the globe. DDM stated that every number represents a calm and peaceful mind to nurture the Earth, thus helping to transform the world into a serene Pure Land. Text: Lin Ya-Ying (林雅櫻); Dharma Drum Monthly Photos: Lee Dong-Yang(李東陽); Chang, Tian-Pei (張田沛); Chang, Yao-Chuang (張曜鐘); Dharma Drum Monthly; Chen Meditation Center Translation: Hsiao Chen-An Editing: Chang, Chia-Cheng (張家誠); Keith Brown
Gilbert Gutierrez Forth installment of Six-Part Lecture Series “The Development of Chan from the Beginning.”
On November 28th, Dharma Drum Mountain Los Angeles Center presented the fourth lecture on the Development of Chan, given by Gilbert Gutierrez, one of the western Dharma Heirs of DDM's founder Master Sheng Yen. In this discussion, participants learned how the Six Paramitas, Bodhicitta, and Sunyata (emptiness) help to establish Mahayana practice. Gilbert explained how the Theravada focus on morality (sila), effort (samadhi), and wisdom (prajna) evolved to include generosity (dana), patience (ksanti), and meditation (dhyana), becoming the six paramitas. He further noted that wisdom, inclusive of the other paramitas is an essential part of the bodhisattva path. He also explained that where an arhat experiences cessation of suffering, a bodhisattva embodies bodhicitta, the caring for others and vow to deliver sentient beings. It is this quality that sets the two apart. Quoting from the Heart Sutra "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. All phenomena are empty.", Gilbert emphasized that this teaching on sunyata is a cornerstone for Mahayana Buddhism. Though difficult to understand, by practicing awareness through meditation, the mind expands and realizes that everything is empty becomes possible. Gilbert also spoke on the fourth patriarch Dao Xin's "lucid purity of mind is only possible by identification with the natural rhythm of things". He referred to the "natural rhythm" as the causes and conditions that drive the mind and pointed out that contemplating causes and conditions can help to stop subject-object observations that lead to suffering. The last two talks in the series will be held on December 5th and December 12th at 6:00 pm Pacific Standard Time on Zoom. The Zoom ID is 849 5390 8815 and the passcode is 4388. Recordings of each talk are posted at DDM LA's Facebook page. By Jeremy Bieber of Dharma Drum Mountain Los Angeles Center www.ddmbala.org
On November 18th, 2020, Venerable Chang Wu, abbot of Vancouver Chan Meditation Centre, was invited to give an online talk, called "Finding and Feeling Joy", to Cambridge University Buddhist Society (CUBS). Around 50 attendees were present for the talk, including seven members of London Chan Meditation. To bring the participants closer, the Venerable began by emphasizing that she is also a "student", and that to be forever learning is a joy in itself, tagging on the moderator Christoph's introduction of the speaker. The Venerable then guided the participants to meditate, relaxing from the parts to the whole body through awareness of sensations. After 15 minutes, she checked in with the participants to see if they felt a sense of calmness and a touch of Joy. Starting with the definition of joy, the Venerable explained that the happiness we usually refer to is obtained from sensory stimuli, such as amusing music or tasty food. However, this kind of happiness can never last long, and, once it vanishes, we would feel loss. Next, the Venerable turned the talk to a deeper level of happiness, called joy or True Happiness. She mentioned that joy comes from a harmonious relationship and close connections between our body and mind, between others and ourselves, and between the environment and ourselves. The Venerable also explained that we have become accustomed to a state of dissonance between body and mind because our survival instinct makes us prone to believe in fanciful stories, justify our wrong behaviors, and even blind ourselves. Sometimes our mind is so busy that the body performs one action while the mind is filled with other unrelated thoughts. Only when our body and mind are together, living in the present moment, clearly aware of the body's sensations and actions, can we start to have peace and joy. This is also an important foundation work of True Happiness. Modern society has evolved to become a place where self-reliant and competitive winners are often praised. This, in turn, makes us see others as the opposite party. Furthermore, in our pursuit of independence and self-fulfillment, we neglect close connections with other people. The Venerable emphasized that we can't exist in this world without other people. When we recognize this fact and stop focusing only on ourselves-- seeing that others have the same needs and feelings as we do-- we would have more power to share, care, and thus have more joy. At the end of the lecture, members asked for advice on meditation, work, and life issues. Finally, Venerable Chang Wu again responded to the request of the host and the members by leading a meditation session of Metta Contemplation to end this joyful meeting. Text & Photos: Dharma Drum Mountain Vancouver Translation: Hsiao Chen-an Edition: Shujen Yeh; Keith Brown
Since March this year, the Sunday Online Meditation Group Session led by Venerable Guo Yuan, Abbot of Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, New York, has introduced Chan meditation to participants joining online from Canada, Estonia, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States and other countries worldwide. However, the session on September 6th, 2020 was more than just a regular Sunday practice. It was also the blissful day that two Chan students-- Robin from the United Kingdom and Dima from Russia-- took refuge in the Three Jewels online. The refuge ceremony was led by Venerable Guo Yuan and was witnessed and blessed by many members of the monastery, as well as all the Dharma brothers and sisters. Venerable Guo Yuan described taking refuge as "coming back to our home, our spiritual home, under (the) guidance and blessings of the Three Jewels." The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha are referred to as the Three Jewels due to their invaluable spiritual values. Shakyamuni Buddha was the historical Buddha who found the way to ultimate liberation with the aim of transcending suffering. Dharma is what the Buddha shared with us through his teachings. The community of the monastics that passes down the teaching up until now is referred as the Sangha. We take refuge in the Three Jewels so that we can return to the spiritual home under the guidance of the Three Jewels and we continue with the practice. The first online ceremony of Taking Refuge in Three Jewels was auspicious and well received by its two refuge takers. Here are their heartfelt sharing and words from the UK and Russia. Robin, from the United Kingdom: "Together with a fellow dharma friend, I recently took refuge in the three jewels (online hosted by) the DDM SF chapter. Being based in the UK, I feel very fortunate to have been part of the Centre's first online refuge ceremony. In addition to practising with my teacher here in the UK, I have been attending the Centre's online meditation since the earlier days of the pandemic. During these months, my connection with Ch'an Buddhism deepened. I was therefore very excited to learn that taking refuge online was indeed possible. What strange times we live in! And yet, the Dharma has flourished in new and wonderful ways, connecting practitioners from all over the world. Venerable Guo Yuan led the ceremony with patience and humor. He described taking refuge as "coming home in the Buddha." These words strongly resonated with me when I repeated the vows and precepts (and still do so today). I felt a sense of gratitude and also relief as if some baggage had fallen off. While the journey continues and the work still lies ahead, I feel that the direction of travel has now become clearer. Many members of the Sangha stayed on after the regular Sunday meditation to witness the ceremony. We all shared a joyous celebratory moment afterwards. For this, I am very grateful. It was a truly special and humbling experience." Dima, from Russia: "The first time I heard about Chan teaching was a YouTube video with Master Sheng Yen. It was like: "Oh! Here is the teacher I was looking for!" And I became sad when I knew that he had already passed away. I encountered Chan teaching directly in 2019 during Guo Xing Fashi's visit to Russia. I did not have an opportunity to stay for a seven-day retreat, but this meeting made a great impression on me. By that time I've already practiced in Tibetan tradition for a while but I felt an inner predisposition to Chan. Since spring 2020, thanks to the pandemic, I have found online meditation practices guided by Jinho Fashi and since then I have been regularly practicing with her. I wanted to take refuge in the Chan tradition, and I thought to do that during the next visit of one of the teachers to Russia, but I did not even think that it would be possible to do this online. Several days ago, I was about to go to bed when I suddenly received a message from Jinho Fashi. She encouraged me to join the refuge ceremony right now. It was like a bolt from the blue and I did not expect it at all. The ceremony was excellent thanks to Honorable Guo Yuan Fashi. It seems to me that the way this sudden ceremony of taking refuge happened to me was quite in the spirit of Chan. I am very happy to be a part of the DDM family and it was great to have that opportunity." For more information or to register for the Sunday Online Meditation Group Session, please visit here.