Shining an Eternal Light from Within

Master Sheng Yen’s Memorial Service, completed by the DDM LA Chapter with gratitude

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Amidst a cold and wet winter season, Mother Nature granted us a bright shiny day bestowing warmth and hope to our great land as we glorified the Passing on the Lamp Ceremony on February 16th.

In memory of our late Master Sheng Yen, DDM monastics and lay practitioners worldwide gathered around in memory and in gratitude for the inexhaustible teachings and dedication that was demonstrated throughout his life with the goal of passing along his torch and his vows on the significant 10th anniversary of his passing. In this revered ceremony, practitioners vowed with Bodhicitta to pass the light of Dharma from themselves to others as the guiding lights bringing the power of stability and warmth to all.

Through a guided relaxation followed by one hour of our late Master’s chanting of Amitabha Buddha, participants gradually collected their minds and focused their thoughts into a five-minute mindfulness sitting meditation. Slowly, Master’s image appeared on the big screen to deliver his three wishes: Firstly, spread the Dharma to all sentient beings, with the empowerment of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Secondly, initiate continual great compassion to help all sentient beings. Thirdly, learn to introduce Dharma to difficult sentient beings when deemed inconceivable. Master emphasized that if we generate great vows for the benefit of all sentient beings rather than for our own fame and benefit, there is strength and power.

Master is no longer with us in a physical human form, but his teachings remain dynamic through a myriad of media. His writings and videos guide his students toward implementing Dharma in order to uplift human characters and build a pure land as a gesture of appreciation to their teacher. In the short film “Thus I Do” he encouraged every follower to forge a path with a great vow to spread Dharma seeds extensively. Have we fulfilled his hopes? Our Master has left us with the legacy of Dharma Drum Mountain but our inner DDM is a work in progress. We need to build it brick by brick with honesty and with dedication. Passing on the lamp signifies passing on the Dharma. When someone bears a bright mind it should be transmitted onto others until he or she reaches everyone. The Vimalakirti Sutra points out that the lamps we are passing on are our mind lamps of wisdom and compassion.

The ceremony continued with the chanting of the Dharma Transmission Verse as the hosting monastic, Chang-Ju Fashi, piloted the amber of true Dharma and passed it along to other monastic members’ candle bowls and among everyone in the hall.

Dharma Transmission Verse:

“Pass on the lamp of eternality

Carry on the Buddha’s great compassion

Follow the teachings of Master Sheng Yen

Preach the Dharma of Dharma Drum.”

This year’s candle bowl is truly a unique creation: a white ceramic piece inscribed with the Bodhisattva Verse, housed in a forest green keepsake cloth bag secured by a button with the DDM logo. When a candle is lit, the white bowl becomes translucent and solemnly illuminates the inscription with clarity. During the ceremony, all participants held their candle bowl mindfully as they vowed to transmit the Dharma to others with great compassion. They prayed that more beings will light up with their inner lights and be liberated from vexations.

Abbot President Guo Huei’s speech in a prerecorded video emphasized the intrinsic inner Bodhi lamp that resides within each of us. Everyone should be confident with the Three Jewels and our Master’s teaching in order for us to continue the vows of the Buddha and of our Master to deliver all sentient beings. He urged all sentient beings to initiate great vows and compassion just like our Master and to implement 2019 DDM’s theme of “Make a Good Wish for the World’ together. We should start by making a wish, giving blessings, making a promise, putting that promise into action and fulfilling the promise. He also advocated the importance of always relaxing your body and your mind and to greet others with a smile. He encouraged us to act as a recruiter for people to learn Buddhism, for minds to learn Buddha Dharma and for money to support the Dharma in order for the Sangha to benefit the society. He cordially invited monastics and lay people to work alongside one another in order to pass on the faith, vows and compassion to learn, promote and protect the Dharma.

The ceremony concluded with Chang-Ju Fashi’s reminder that although our late Master was not physically here, his Dharma body was omnipresent beyond space and time through his teachings and virtues that shined in his media and at the corner of his disciples’ minds. With gratitude we are to follow his footsteps, working as his hands and feet and eyes as we contribute ourselves to guide all sentient beings.

Mementos were given to all participants of the ceremony, including a printed copy of our Master’s original handwritten calligraphy of the sixth patriarch Hueineng’s “No-notion Verse”, the 2019 booklet themed “Make a Good Wish for the World,” and “Liberated in Stillness and Motion” in English. Most significantly, a wishing card was given, prompting us to follow our Master distinctive vow: “The universe may one day perish, yet my vows are eternal.” Our Master once mentioned not to thank him for what he had taught us but rather to appreciate him as a teacher as we implement ourselves as lamps shining with light and warmth to the people surrounding us.

Master Sheng Yen’s stylish calligraphy of the “No-notion Verse” reads: “Bodhi mind is the true nature whereas rising thoughts are delusions” and “Ignorant for eons but enlightened in one thought.” The candle light glistens beautifully in every white bowl as is the mind of every sentient being. With one mind lightens up an infinity extensively into the world. 

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