2019 DDMLAC Lunar New Year Celebrations
Dharma Drum Mountain, Los Angeles Center celebrated the 2019 Lunar New Year within the first few days of the New Year. Three Dharma services were held, centered on the Diamond Sutra, the Medicine Buddha Sutra (Bhaisajya-guru) and Guanyin Pusa (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva)Universal Gate Chapter.
On each of the first five days of the Lunar New Year, offerings were made to the Buddha. Other activities included a children’s fair, a flea market, giving lamp-lit blessings and making vows. Volunteers provided vegetarian delicacies. This festive and warm gathering over food and activities gave overseas practitioners an opportunity to connect through tradition and spend a meaningful holiday with one another.
A drizzle on New Year’s Day did not dim participants’ enthusiasm for the Diamond Sutra Recitation. Chang Ju Fashi led the assembly of more than 100 individuals through a guided meditation session before the service so they had an opportunity to relax and better focus on the recitation to achieve the ultimate goal of practice, which is to bring to life the wisdom and compassion as taught in the Sutra outside the ceremony. Opportunities to offer flowers and to light lamps were made available during all three services.
Plump red lanterns lined the walls of the Great Hall and the walkways between buildings, bringing good cheer to the Center. The hung lamps reminded practitioners of their original vows to seek wisdom and leave ignorance behind. To light lamps at a communal space points also to the importance of shared practice. The lamps adorn and honor both a tangible space and a practitioner’s own enlightenment-seeking mind. Let the light from these lamps light the way for all those working to uplift the human character and at the same time build a pure land on earth.
A vow-making tree was set up near the Guanyin alter. Making a vow before the Buddha purifies both the body and the mind, leading to better cultivation of merit and wisdom. Practitioners may gain peace of mind in this year of the pig by dealing with problems with wisdom and by treating people with compassion.
To promote environmental protection and resource conservation, DDM L.A. Center held a flea market for the third year in a row. Participants brought toys, household decorations, office supplies, kitchenware, clothing, small electronics and other items they were not using to sell at a minimal price for the Center. The children’s fair offered multiple activity booths inspired by the spirit of Chan. These included Strike a Bell and Offer a Prayer, Brush Calligraphy, Snow Drifts on Plum Flowers (Ink Blowing), Sutra Copying and Carrying a Water Bowl among other activities.
There were also pictorial displays of Shakyamuni Buddha, Medicine Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, Ksitigarbha Boddhisattva and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva titled “The Vows of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.” These are symbolic figures of those who have initiated great vows while cultivating on causal ground. They serve as an inspiration for followers to emanate their good vows to benefit the world.
At each Dharma service, the monastics prepared goodie bags containing peace rice to share with the attendants. Memorial tablets to remember the deceased and pray for the living could be offered through a digital platform. This has been done for several years now, avoiding the waste and pollution that comes along with the traditional rites of burning material objects.
At the beginning of spring, let us make a vow to be active in our deeds and vows to benefit our world, and make this vow real. May our conduct, speech and minds be purified through the New Year activities. Let us not only receive the blessings and the wisdom and compassion of the Dharma but share and realize them so that our vexations may be lightened, our wisdom increased, peace more often encountered and the year fulfilled with the power of the Dharma.